The Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled the trial court erred in dismissing a patient’s Intentional Infliction of Emotion Distress (“IIED”) claim based on the lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  In this claim, the patient was admitted to the hospital while unconscious and under the influence of phencyclidine, a medication commonly known as the date rape drug. During her treatment, it was identified the patient suffered from possible vaginal trauma. The physician performed a medical evaluation, but did not complete a rape kit or preserve possible evidence of sexual assault. While treating the patient, hospital staff members did not inform her that she may have been raped and also made several derogatory statements.  The patient later sued the hospital for breach of duty and IIED. The hospital filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction arguing the claims sounded in medical malpractice and neither claim had been filed before the Indiana Department of Insurance.  The trial judge granted the motion and the patient’s appeal ensued.

The Indiana Court of Appeals concluded the trial court did not err in dismissing the patient’s breach of duty claim, yet opined the trial court did in fact have subject matter jurisdiction over the IIED claim.  Specifically, the court believed the statements made to the patient were made only to disparage her and were unrelated to medical treatment. Moreover, the court felt the statements made to the patient were not caused by the patient-health care provider relationship and were not necessary to the proper patient diagnosis or treatment.  The hospital unsuccessfully argued the patient was being treated by the same staff members who disparaged her.  The court did not find this argument persuasive and remanded the claim.

This case supports the notion that health care providers are unable to claim the protections of the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act for claims of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.  As the statements in this case clearly showed, they were not made with the intention to promote the patient’s health or provide curative or salutary treatment.