Maintaining medical records for a patient is within the scope of the Medical Malpractice Act. The Medical Malpractice Act generally requires that actions for medical negligence against health care providers must first be submitted to, and an opinion given by, a medical review panel before commencing an action in court.
In Howard Regional Health System, et al. v. Jacob Gordon, et al. , et al. No. 34S02-1009-CV-476, the plaintiff sought damages and moved for partial summary judgment for spoliation against a hospital for lost medical records. The trail court granted partial summary judgment by concluding that the defendant had a duty to maintain the records and their failure to maintain these records breached that duty under Indiana code section 16-3-7-1. The hospital appealed, arguing that maintaining medical records is within the purview of Medical Malpractice Act and thus a medical review panel must give is opinion before an action against the hospital may commence.
The Indiana Supreme Court reasoned that ongoing maintenance of test and treatment records bears strongly on subsequent treatment and diagnosis of patients. It is a part of what patients expect from health care providers. Thus, maintaining medical records falls inside within the scope of the Act and is considered a part of the practice of medicine. The Supreme Court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that it was asserting a third-party spoliation cliam, instead finding that the plaintiff’s claim was essentially a first-party spoliation claim that is disallowed under Indiana law.
In an opinion dissenting in part and concurring in part, Judge Dickson was dissatisfied with the court’s view that the maintenance of medical records claim should be governed by the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act. Rather, the maintenance of records does not involve any exercise of professional medical judgment and thus should not be subject to the act.