Indiana Medical Liability Cap – How Changes Could Affect Everyone

In 2001, Debra Plank was a seemingly healthy, 47 year old woman, who went to a hospital in Indianapolis after she began to experience pain in her abdominal area. Doctors prescribed pain medication and sent her home where she died soon after.

The cause of her death was found to be a bowel obstruction which caused her to contract sepsis. Due to this misdiagnosis, Mrs. Plank’s husband Timothy Plank sued the Indianapolis community hospital where she was treated and was awarded $8.5 million dollars in damages. This amount was eventually lowered to the total amount of $1.25 million. This amount is the cap that damages in Indiana can be awarded in any cases of medical liability.

Ten Years of Appeals

Timothy Plank still continues to fight the verdict ten years later and is challenging the constitutionality of the cap which was established by the high court in 1980. Several appellate judges have said that the 1980 decision from the high court left the door open for potential legal challenges but so far nothing has been done to reverse the trial court’s decision for Timothy Plank.

Doctors in Indiana stand on the side of the high court and are against anything to change it because, as in the case of the Plank Family, cases of medical malpractice or misdiagnosis could ruin community hospitals financially.

Years of Stability

If the Plank case is reversed and a higher amount of more than $1.25 million dollars is awarded, 36 years of stability would soon come to an end as the door would be opened for new challenges to the cap to arise.
Thanks to the cap, which became a law in 1975, a medical liability crisis came to an end and doctors were able to start performing procedures that were seen as high risk and save more patients’ lives.
Although the cap helped to “shore up” the insurance industry in Indiana, many insurance industry experts have said that the caps relevance has ended.

Although no changes to the cap have been implemented yet, many people are expecting 2012 to be a year of big changes for the medical insurance industry in Indiana.