United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Parkview Hospital,
Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 40] and
Motion to Renew Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 92].
Plaintiff Tyquan Stewart has filed timely Responses [ECF Nos.
49, 50], and the Defendant has timely replied [ECF No. 65].
The matter is thus fully briefed and ripe for
following background is provided by the exhibits attached to
the operative Complaint [ECF No. 79] and to the parties'
briefing on this Motion for Summary Judgment. In June 2016,
the Plaintiff was involved in an automobile collision.
(Compl. 2.) He was transported from the scene by ambulance to
Parkview Regional Medical Center, and, he alleges, lost
consciousness on his way there. At Parkview Regional Medical
Center, Defendant Tyler G. Johnson, D.O., treated the
Plaintiff. Before treatment, the Plaintiff received and
signed an Authorization for Medical Treatment. (See
Authorization, ECF No. 65-1.) The Authorization provides:
I authorize the healthcare providers involved with my
healthcare to perform medical treatment and those medical
procedures, which are necessary and appropriate. I understand
the physicians caring for me are independent healthcare
providers and not employees of the facility.
Plaintiff claims that Dr. Johnson learned certain information
about him during this treatment, and that Dr. Johnson shared
this protected information with several Fort Wayne Police
Department Officers without his consent, in violation of the
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA),
Pub. L. 104-191 (Aug. 21, 1996). The Plaintiff also brought a
claim for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional
distress arising out of the same alleged facts against Dr.
Johnson. He further argues that Defendant Parkview is
vicariously liable for these three claims because Dr. Johnson
was working within his scope of employment at all relevant
times. Defendant Parkview asserts that it is not liable for
Dr. Johnson's alleged torts because he was an independent
contractor at the relevant times, not a Parkview employee.
judgment is warranted when “the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The nonmoving party must marshal and
present the Court with evidence on which a reasonable jury
could rely to find in his favor. Goodman v. Nat'l
Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). A
court must deny a motion for summary judgment when the
nonmoving party presents admissible evidence that creates a
genuine issue of material fact. Luster v. Ill. Dep't
of Corr., 652 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations
omitted). A court's role in deciding a motion for summary
judgment “is not to sift through the evidence,
pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to
believe. [A] court has one task and one task only: to decide,
based on the evidence of record, whether there is any
material dispute of fact that requires a trial.”
Waldridge v. Am. Heochst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920
(7th Cir. 1994). Facts that are outcome determinative under
the applicable law are material for summary judgment
purposes. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 427 (7th
Cir. 1997). Although a bare contention that an issue of
material fact exists is insufficient to create a factual
dispute, a court must construe all facts in a light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, view all reasonable
inferences in that party's favor, Bellaver v. Quanex
Corp., 200 F.3d 485, 491-92 (7th Cir. 2000), and avoid
“the temptation to decide which party's version of
the facts is more likely true, ” Payne v.
Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003).
instant case involves a pro se plaintiff, which means that
the Court must liberally construe his pleadings. Anderson
v. Hardman, 241 F.3d 544, 545 (7th Cir. 2001).
Additionally, pro se submissions are held “to a less
stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541,
546 (7th Cir. 2009).
Plaintiff asserts two reasons that Defendant Parkview is
liable for Dr. Johnson's torts under a theory of apparent
authority. First, the Plaintiff asserts that there was
“no informed consent.” (See Resp. 2, ECF
No. 50.) Second, he argues that he had no knowledge that Dr.
Johnson was an independent contractor rather than a Parkview
employee when he received treatment. The Plaintiff further
argues that a question of material fact remains concerning
his consciousness while he was treated at Parkview Regional
Medical Center. Defendant Parkview counters that it is not
liable for the torts of Dr. Johnson because he is an
independent contractor. The argument therefore centers on the
doctrine of apparent authority, specifically in the
independent contractor physician context. This area of the
law is not well-settled in Indiana. See, e.g.,
Sword v. NKC Hosps., Inc., 714 N.E.2d 142, 147-51
(Ind. 1999) (explaining apparent authority and Indiana
courts' jurisprudence on the subject in hospital
settings, and also exploring the law in other jurisdictions);
see also Webster v. Ctr. for Diagnostic Imaging,
Inc., No. 1:16-cv-2677, 2017 WL 3839377, at *5-9 (S.D.
Ind. Aug. 31, 2017) (reviewing Sword v. NKC
Hospitals, 714 N.E.2d 142 (Ind. 1999), and applying the
analysis to a non-hospital medical center). Indiana courts
have adopted the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 429 to
analyze this area of the law. Sword, 714 N.E.2d at
Indiana law, “[a] hospital generally will be able to
avoid [vicarious] liability [for care provided by independent
contractors] by providing meaningful written notice to the
patient [of the independent contractors' status],
acknowledged at the time of admission.” Id.
(citation omitted). “Under some circumstances, such as
in the case of a medical emergency, however, written notice
may not suffice if the patient had an inadequate opportunity
to make an informed choice.” Id. Indiana
courts appear hesitant to grant summary judgment when
determining whether a standard form notice adequately informs
a patient of a physician's independent contractor status.
For example, the Supreme Court of Indiana noted that a
standard “Condition of Admission and Authorization for
Treatment” form that explained that the physicians in a
hospital were all independent contractors rather than
hospital employees likely does not provide meaningful notice
to patients who present at the hospital in active labor.
Id. at 152 n.16. Additionally, the Court of Appeals
of Indiana held that a notice that informs a patient that
“many” of the physicians in a hospital are
independent contractors was not meaningful because such
notice did not inform the patient whether her particular
treating physician was a hospital employee or an independent
contractor. Helms v. Rudicel, 986 N.E.2d 302, 313
(Ind.Ct.App. 2013). In both cases, the Indiana courts
emphasized that meaningful notice allows a patient to
comprehend and understand the independent contractor status
of the treating physician in the specific circumstances in
which the patient is presented with the notice. As the
Indiana Supreme Court noted in Sword, notice that is
otherwise clear may not be meaningful in a medical emergency.
Other courts analyzing Sword have similarly
recognized the fact intensive nature of such an inquiry.
See Webster, 2017 WL 3839377, at *5-9; see also
Boren ex rel. Boren v. Weeks, 251 S.W.3d 426, 437 (Tenn.
2008) (applying Restatement (Second) § 429 and following
present record, the Court finds that there are genuine issues
of material fact concerning whether the Plaintiff adequately
understood the Authorization under the circumstances of his
admission to Parkview Regional Medical Center. The record
shows that the Plaintiff was admitted to Parkview Regional
Medical Center after an automobile collision, and that he had
to be transported by ambulance. He also may have been
intoxicated, and signed the Authorization at 4:38 A.M. The
Plaintiff appears to argue, in essence, that given his state
at the time of admission he could not meaningfully understand
the Authorization presented to him explaining that the
treating physicians at Parkview Regional Medical Center were
independent contractors and not employees. To support this
argument, he presented two copies of his signature on
Parkview forms,  one from a prior admission in April 2016
and the other from his admission to Parkview Regional Medical
Center on June 4, 2016. In his Response, he argues that these
forms show that he provided “informed consent” in
one scenario (April 2016), and that he did not provide
“informed consent” in the other (June 4, 2016).
The Court must construe pro se filings liberally, see
Anderson v. Hardman, 241 F.3d 544, 545 (7th Cir. 2001),
and assumes here that the Plaintiff is putting forth an