Case Notes: A River Runs Through It in Jurisdiction issues in case involving medical treatment in Louisville but followup surgery across the Ohio River (Cooper vs. Dr. Ajith Nair, Kentuckiana Pain Specialists and Metro Specialty Surgery Center, COA NPO 1/9/2015)

 

Screenshot capture from Google Maps.

Screenshot capture from Google Maps.

This decision highlights what the risks are when you select a Louisville physician who then ships you across the river to Indiana for surgery (where there is more favorable medical malpractice protection for the doctor but a most tortuous path for those who have been injured when trying to get their lives back from a doctor’s mistakes).  The doctors say it keeps their costs down by operating in Indiana, but another way to look at it is that it frustrates the patient’s care and needs, especially when the procedure is believed to have been botched.

Here’s the case and a recommended read for the limits of prosecuting medical negligence claims when a river runs through it.  Note, the decision indicates the actual act of negligence arose from the surgery in Indiana which has a two year statute of limitation with Kentucky having a one-year statute.  The lawsuit was filed in Kentucky on the eve of the one year Kentucky SOL (statute of limitation), and the trial court ruled nearly a half-year prior to the two-year SOL for Indiana.  Nothing was said in this opinion whether they was concurrent or subsequent filing in Indiana, and one can clearly understand the fight to stay in the Commonwealth to avoid the harsh and nearly insurmountable obstacles to recovery through the Indiana medical malpractice system.  Thus, the results might not be so harsh as originally suspected if there was concurrent filing in Kentucky and Indiana.  And, this my friends is why medical malpractice prosecution and defense is not for the faint hearted, and why the traffic snarls are not the only reason to stay on this side of the river when it comes to medical treatment.

And, of course, these litigants have yet to address the choice of law issues in this one, and will still have to navigate how the office visits and treatment might allow personal jurisdiction over Dr. Nair and Kentuckiana Pain Specialists.

Medical Negligence.  Venue and in personal jurisdiction re Indiana surgery center; Long Arm Statute (interesting read since physicians treated plaintiff in Louisville, but physician performed surgery in Indiana at the Metro Specialty Surgical Center)

Teddy Cooper vs.  Dr. Ajith Nair, M.D.
COA NPO 1/9/2015
Affirming in part, vacating in part and remanding;  Jefferson County

Teddy Cooper and Lori Cooper, his wife, appeal from the order of the Jefferson Circuit Court dismissing their negligence action against Dr. Ajith Nair; Kentuckiana Pain Specialists, P.S.C.; and Metro Specialty Surgery Center, L.L.C. On appeal, the Coopers argue that the trial court erred in determining that Jefferson County was not the proper venue for their claims and that the court lacked in personam jurisdiction over Metro Specialty Surgery Center, a business entity organized under the laws of Indiana and domiciled there. Having reviewed the record and the arguments of counsel, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand.

In this case, a Hardin County resident was treated by Dr. Nair at Kentuckiana Pain Specialists for 22 separate visits for low back complaints, but has back surgery in Indiana at the Metro Specialty Surgery Center.  One day before the one-year anniversary of the surgery, Cooper filed suit in Jefferson County against Dr. Nair, Kentuckiana Pain, and Metro Specialty Surgery Center claiming they deviated from the standard of care.  What was not included in the complaint was the basis for jurisdiction over Metro Surgery who raised personal jurisdiction and venue in defense.  It was not disputed that the med-mal claim was based upon the Indiana surgery.

Judge Bisig, Jefferson Circuit Court, dismissed the claims against Metro Surgery for lack of jurisdiction and dismissed the claims against Dr. Nair and Kentuckiana Pain for lack of venue.

Jurisdiction was noted to be a two-step process.   First was jurisdiction authorized under the long arm statute?  Second, does jurisdiction comport with federal due process.

While the Coopers are required to set forth the necessary facts supporting a finding of jurisdiction, they failed to identify to the trial court which of these circumstances was relevant to its  determination. Nor have they offered any basis for the exercise of  personal jurisdiction in their brief on appeal. Instead, the Coopers argue that they are entitled to an opportunity to conduct further discovery since they adduced evidence sufficient to show: that Dr. Nair is an agent of Metro Specialty Surgery Center; that other Kentucky doctors have a relationship with the surgery center; and that the surgery center maintains contact and does business with Kentucky patients. The Coopers contend that the trial court erred by denying them the opportunity to conduct further discovery with respect to these issues.

The Court of Appeals in an opinion written by Judge Combs concluded there was no personal jurisdiction over Metro Specialty Surgery Center.

It is undisputed that Metro Specialty Surgery Center is an Indiana business entity with its principal place of business in Jeffersonville, Indiana. It is not registered with the Kentucky Secretary of State, and it is not authorized to conduct business in the Commonwealth. In fact, given the breadth of services that it offers on an outpatient basis, it is specifically prohibited from conducting business here. It is undisputed that the surgery center  as not involved with the care and treatment that Teddy Cooper was offered or  provided in the Commonwealth. The surgery center provided care to him only  in Indiana. The surgery center does not supply goods nor does it contract to supply goods in the Commonwealth. It has no agents or employees working on its behalf in Kentucky. It maintains no office in Kentucky; it does not insure any party in the Commonwealth; it does not own property here; and the Coopers have never alleged that it caused tortious injury here. Under these circumstances, we  conclude that the requirements of our long-arm statute have not been satisfied.

However, with regard to personal jurisdiction over Dr.  Nair and Kentuckiana Pain Specialists, the COA vacated the order of the Jefferson Circuit Court “dismissing the claims asserted by the Coopers against Dr. Nair and Kentuckiana Pain Specialists and remand for further proceedings. However, based upon the foregoing analysis, we affirm the order of the court dismissing the claims asserted by the Coopers against Metro Specialty Surgery Center. ”

[continue reading below for the entirety of the appellate opinion]

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