Indiana medical malpractice victims have won a major victory in the Indiana Court of Appeals. In its decision in Patrick v. Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund, the court held that family members who witness the death of a loved one may recover for their emotional distress under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act.
the Patrick case, Gary Patrick witnessed the gruesome death of his adult son, Christopher, as a result of medical malpractice. Because Christopher had no wife or dependent children, recovery for his death was limited under Indiana law to $300,000 plus funeral and burial and medical expenses. However, Gary contended that he was entitled to bring a claim for his own emotional distress in addition to the claim for the death of his son.
The trial court agreed and awarded Gary the maximum amount allowable for the death of his son, plus an additional $600,000 for Gary's independent emotional distress claim. The total judgment was $916,531.66. The Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund appealed, arguing that the emotional distress claim could not be pursued under Indiana's Medical Malpractice Act. The court of appeals disagreed, finding that "Patrick could bring an independent claim for negligent infliction of his emotional distress upon Christopher's death." Gary Patrick was represented in the trial court and on appeal by Deborah Pennington and Jerry Garau of Garau Germano, P.C.