This recent court decision is an example of a situation where the court gets it right. It rejected the government’s motion to dismiss this claim arising from the tragic death of a patient at the Indian Health Service’s Winnebago Hospital.
Let me explain: Like VA and military health care providers, the Indian Health Service can be sued. Actually, you sue the United States of America. The law is the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA mandates a special process which requires that the agency (IHS in this case) be presented with a claim that puts it on notice and gives it a reasonable chance to investigate the claim.
In this case, the government claimed the notice was inadequate – and it does sound like there were some issues with it. Apparently, the claim primarily involved newspaper articles being submitted. Still, the court applied the correct standard and held that the government had been provided with enough information to investigate the case. A claim does not have to be perfect – or even pretty – it just has to provide enough information for the government to be put on notice.
I would assume (hope) that the claim was filed by the family without the assistance of a lawyer. If so, they got lucky – and likely found a lawyer who knew how to argue the issues.
Situations like this one often go the other way. That is why it is important to have a lawyer who understands the nuances of both medical malpractice cases and the FTCA.
Our firm has almost 20 years of experience handling FTCA malpractice cases all over the country. It is a primary focus of our practice. We can help.
To view the full article on Law360, please click here.