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Shaw v. Sundaram

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 9, 2018

James E. Shaw, Administrator of the Estate and as Father of Jaymes G. Shaw, deceased, Appellant,
Chandra Sundaram, M.D., and Kelli Metelues, Appellees

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Heather A. Welch, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49D01-1311-CT-42340

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Nathaniel Lee Laura R. Crowley Lee Cossell & Crowley, LLP Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE DR. SUNDARAM Michael E. O'Neill Kelly K. McFadden O'Neill McFadden & Willett LLP Schererville, Indiana

          Baker, Judge.

         [¶1] James Shaw (Shaw) brings this appeal as father of Jaymes Shaw (Jay) and as administrator of Jay's estate. Jay died following an illness and a surgery, and Shaw filed a medical malpractice action stemming from Jay's death. Following a lengthy discovery period that included the trial court entering two orders to compel and two sanctions awards against Shaw, the parties went to trial. The jury found in favor of Dr. Chandra Sundaram, who performed the surgery. Shaw now appeals, arguing that (1) the trial court made erroneous rulings regarding one of his expert witnesses; and (2) the trial court erroneously granted a motion in limine preventing Shaw from introducing an informed consent claim into the trial. Finding no error, we affirm.


         Jay's Illness and Surgery

         [¶2] On October 20, 2009, nineteen-year-old Jay arrived at the emergency room with his mother, Kelli Metelues (Kelli). Jay had previously had a kidney transplant and was scheduled for a kidney stent placement to help relieve a blockage in the transplanted kidney. After evaluating Jay's symptoms, hospital personnel admitted him to the hospital with dual diagnoses of pneumonia[1] and acute renal failure. Doctors believed that one of the contributory factors to Jay's acute renal failure was the blockage in his transplanted kidney.

         [¶3] A nephrologist evaluated Jay's condition and concluded that the placement of a stent was the best course of action. That doctor asked Dr. Sundaram, a urologist, to place the stent. The plan was discussed with Jay and Kelli. A surgical consent form was signed for a cystoscopy and transplant stent placement to be performed by Dr. Sundaram and his resident. The signature line bears Jay's name and is witnessed by Kelli, whose name also appears on the lines for "Parent, Guardian, or Other Signature" and for "Name of Adult Witness." Appellant's App. Vol. VI p. 150. The document is also signed in the box labeled "Treating Practitioner," which describes the information provided during the informed consent discussion with the patient and his family, including the risks, benefits, and alternatives to the procedure. Kelli later attested in a deposition that she signed the form on Jay's behalf at his request:

Q: At the time, I believe Jay was 19?
A: Yes.
Q: Why did you sign this instead of him?
A: Because I was his caregiver, and he didn't understand what was going on.
Q: Okay. Were you-did you have documentation that you were his legal representative?
A: I believe so. I don't remember.
Q: Okay. So you had a power of attorney or something of that nature?
A: I actually don't remember. I know he gave consent to sign for him.

Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 141.

         [¶4] On October 21, 2009, Dr. Sundaram performed a cystoscopy and stent placement on Jay. During the procedure, Jay went into cardiac arrest and died.

         The Litigation

         [¶5] On October 20, 2011, Shaw filed a medical malpractice action against Dr. Sundaram and others with the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI). Shaw's proposed complaint included the following allegations:

6. [Jay] presented to the Emergency Room at I.U. Health University Hospital on October 20, 2009 with flu-like symptoms which included fever, chills, cough, weakness, fatigue and diarrhea.
7. [Jay] was scheduled for elective surgery for a ureteral stent placement on October 21, 2009.
8. Defendants determined that the non-emergent surgery should proceed despite his presentation instead of postponing the surgery.
9. [Jay's] condition deteriorated in the Operative Room leading to cardiac arrest and his expiration.
10. Defendants failed to act within the reasonable standard of care and as a direct and proximate result of their actions, Plaintiff has been injured.

Id. at 189-90.

         [¶6] Shaw eventually presented his claims to a Medical Review Panel (MRP), which found in favor of Dr. Sundaram and the other defendants. On November 21, 2013, Shaw filed a negligence action against Dr. Sundaram on behalf of Jay's estate.[2] In relevant part, the complaint repeats the allegations quoted above, merely changing the plural "defendants" to refer solely to Dr. Sundaram. Id. at 73. The complaint states that its purpose is "to redress acts, conduct, omissions, negligence and medical malpractice committed by [Dr. Sundaram[.]]" Id. at 72.

         Expert-Related Discovery Issues

         [¶7] The discovery process was fraught with conflict largely caused by Shaw. On July 2, 2014, the trial court entered a proposed case management order. The order set a trial date of January 11, 2016, [3] and ordered the parties to, among other things, provide a final witness and exhibit list no later than sixty days before trial. The order further required Shaw to file all expert disclosures ...

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