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Martinez v. Oaklawn Psychiatric Center, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 12, 2019

Linda Martinez, as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Roy Martinez, Appellant-Plaintiff,
Oaklawn Psychiatric Center, Inc., Appellee-Defendant.

          Appeal from the St. Joseph Superior Court The Honorable Jenny Pitts Manier, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 71D05-1803-CT-140

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Daniel H. Pfeifer James P. Barth Jeffrey J. Stesiak South Bend, Indiana

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Robert J. Palmer Mishawaka, Indiana

          MATHIAS, JUDGE.

         [¶1] The issue presented in this appeal is whether the claim in this case alleges facts that fall under Indiana's Medical Malpractice Act ("the Act"), or whether the facts allege pure negligence or premises liability outside the definitions of the Act. The St. Joseph Superior Court granted Oaklawn Psychiatric Center, Inc.'s ("Oaklawn") motion to dismiss under Trial Rule 12(B)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Linda Martinez, as the personal representative of the estate of Roy Martinez ("the Estate"), appeals the dismissal, arguing that Oaklawn is liable based on the theory of premises liability.[1]

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] After five months of inpatient treatment for mental illness, on February 2, 2017, Roy Martinez ("Martinez") was admitted to Metcalf House, a voluntary group home operated by Oaklawn[2] that offers supervised living for patients who do not require inpatient services. Metcalf House is licensed as a Supervised Group Living home through the Indiana Department of Mental Health and Addictions and is a qualified health care provider in accordance with Indiana Code section 34-18-2-24.5. Appellant's Conf. App. p. 44.

         [¶4] Oaklawn employees at Metcalf House called "residential assistants" are responsible for helping residents develop or improve their ability to function independently. Specifically, resident assistants help the residents establish and maintain routines and manage daily activities like hygiene, self-administering medication, and transportation. Metcalf House residential assistants are trained annually in non-violent, verbal de-escalation strategies. Appellant's Conf. App. p. 79. Residential assistants are also trained to call 911 when medical attention is required and to remove themselves from possibly violent situations. Appellant's Conf. App. p. 92.

         [¶5] The Estate's complaint arises from an incident that occurred between Martinez and residential assistant Kennedy Kafatia ("Kafatia"). At approximately 12:30 a.m. on August 3, 2017, the South Bend Police Department responded to a reported assault at Metcalf House. Kafatia reported to the responding officer that he had walked into the living room where Martinez was watching television around midnight and told Martinez he had to go to bed because it was past curfew. Martinez allegedly refused and stated that he wanted to finish his show and drink first. Kafatia said that he walked near Martinez to turn off the lamp, and a struggle for the lamp ensued. When both men dropped the lamp, Kafatia explained that Martinez attempted to charge at him, and in response, Kafatia fell back slightly, extended his right foot, and kicked Martinez, causing a large laceration to his right shin. Martinez reportedly fell backwards into his chair, and his shin started bleeding. Martinez then walked to the kitchen and called 911. Rather than following Martinez into the kitchen, Kafatia remained in the living room to wait for the police, which was consistent with Oaklawn's protocol for handling altercations with the psychiatric patients of Metcalf House.

         [¶6] The responding officer observed Martinez sitting on a chair in the kitchen with a large amount of blood around him. Martinez was still breathing and making grunting noises but was unconscious. While waiting for medics to respond, Martinez suddenly stopped breathing. Two officers began CPR until medics arrived and took over, and Martinez was transported by ambulance to a local hospital. At approximately 1:41 a.m., Martinez was pronounced dead. Kafatia was transported to the police department where he was arrested for battery resulting in death. Appellant's Conf. App. pp. 50-51.

         [¶7] On March 23, 2018, the Estate filed a complaint alleging that Kafatia, acting in the course and scope of his employment, "negligently or recklessly" injured Martinez, resulting in his death. The complaint states that "[a]fter [Martinez] began bleeding, neither the employee supervising and working at Metcalf House nor employees of [Oaklawn] exercised reasonable care by providing basic first aid to [Martinez] or attempting to procure other medical aid or assistance. Appellant's App. pp. 16-17. The Estate also asserts that Oaklawn is "vicariously liable for [Kafatia's] actions, as well as any other employees or supervisors who failed to assist [Martinez]." Appellant's App. p. 17.

         [¶8] Specifically, the Estate alleged that Oaklawn is separately liable to Martinez for:

A. Negligently supervising Martinez;
B. Negligently supervising Kafatia;
C. Failing to provide a safe living environment for Martinez;
D. Failing to provide adequate personnel and staffing to supervise the residents of Metcalf House;
E. Failing to provide proper training to the staff on the use of first aid and when to use first aid;
F. Failing to properly train staff on when to call for assistance; and
G. Failing to provide safety and protection for Martinez and the residents of Metcalf House.

Appellant's App. pp. 17-18.

         [¶9] On May 15, 2018, Oaklawn filed its Answer and Affirmative Defenses, stating in relevant part that "[t]his court lacks the requisite subject matter jurisdiction over this Complaint because [the Estate] has raised allegations of medical malpractice, but has failed to proceed through the medical review panel process." Appellant's App. p. 22. Thereafter, Oaklawn filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Trial Rule 12(B)(1) on September 7, 2018.

         [¶10] The trial court held a hearing on the motion on October 23, 2018. On November 27, 2018, the trial court entered an order finding that "[w]hether the conduct of [Oaklawn] and/or [Kafatia] was negligent, or the exercise of professional judgment compromised, the conduct alleged is not 'unrelated to the promotion of a patient's health or the provider's exercise of professional expertise, skill, or judgment.'" Appellant's App. p. 15 (citation omitted). Therefore, the trial court determined that the Estate's claims fell under the Act and granted Oaklawn's motion to dismiss. Id. The Estate now appeals.

         Standard of Review

         [¶11] The standard of review on an appeal of a case like this, which is decided under Trial Rule 12(B)(1), is an unusual, but critical, component of our decision-making process. A trial court ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Trial Rule 12(B)(1), unlike a trial court ruling on a motion to dismiss under Trial Rule 12(B)(6), may consider not only the complaint, but also any affidavits or other evidence presented and submitted on the issue of subject matter jurisdiction. B.R. ex rel. Todd v. State, 1 N.E.3d 708, 712 (Ind.Ct.App. 2013), trans. denied. If such evidence is presented, the trial court may weigh the evidence to resolve the jurisdictional issue. Id. On appeal, our standard of review depends on what occurred in the trial court, that is, whether the trial court resolved disputed facts, and if the trial court resolved disputed facts, whether it conducted an evidentiary hearing or ruled on a "paper record." Id.

If the facts before the trial court are not in dispute, then the question of subject matter jurisdiction is purely one of law. Under those circumstances no deference is afforded the trial court's conclusion because appellate courts independently, and without the slightest deference to trial court determinations, evaluate those issues they deem to be questions of law. Thus, we review de novo a trial court's ruling on a motion to dismiss under Trial Rule 12(B)(1) where the facts before the trial court are undisputed.
If the facts before the trial court are in dispute, then our standard of review focuses on whether the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing. Under those circumstances, the court typically engages in its classic fact-finding function, often evaluating the character and credibility of witnesses. Thus, where a trial court conducts an evidentiary hearing, we give its factual findings and judgment deference. And in reviewing the trial court's factual findings and judgment, we will reverse only if they are clearly erroneous. Factual findings are clearly erroneous if the evidence does not support them, and a judgment is clearly erroneous if it is unsupported by the factual findings or conclusions of law.
However, where the facts are in dispute but the trial court rules on a paper record without conducting an evidentiary hearing, then no deference is afforded the trial court's factual findings or judgment because under those circumstances a court of review is in as good a position as the trial court to determine whether the court has subject matter jurisdiction. Thus, we review de novo a trial court's ruling on a motion to dismiss where the facts before the court are disputed and the trial court rules on a paper record.

GKN Co. v. Magness, 744 N.E.2d 397, 401 (Ind. 2001) (citations and internal quotations omitted). In this case, the trial court considered the following evidence in the record: the affidavit of Laurie Nafziger, the president and CEO of Oaklawn Psychiatric Center, Inc., the South Bend Police Department's case report, and the deposition of Lisa Johnson, Kafatia's supervisor and the team leader of supervised group living at Oaklawn.

         [¶12] The facts set forth above are undisputed. Moreover, although the trial court held a hearing on the motion to dismiss, the hearing was simply an oral argument, as the parties presented no additional evidence and no witnesses were sworn. Accordingly, we apply a de novo standard of review based on the paper record before us. See B.R. ex rel. Todd, 1 N.E.3d at 713 (applying de novo standard where ...

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