About this Event
Statehouse, Room 413, Indianapolis, IN, 46204
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the Courtroom will be limited to the Judges, limited Court personnel, and no more than two attorneys per arguing party. (Litigants and other interested parties are invited to view the argument by live webcast outside the Courtroom or remotely.)
In December 2017, a nurse at St. Vincent Carmel Hospital (the Hospital) reported to her superior that, the prior evening, she had smelled alcohol on the breath of Rebecca Denman, M.D., who had stopped in while on call. Ten days later, the chief medical officer of Dr. Denman’s employer, St. Vincent Medical Group (SVMG), directed Dr. Denman to submit to an Indiana State Medical Association (ISMA) assessment, following which Dr. Denman was put on leave, received six weeks of treatment for alcohol use disorder, and returned to her job with a five-year ISMA alcohol monitoring contract.
Believing that the Hospital and SVMG failed to follow written policy requiring immediate reporting and testing of a physician suspected of alcohol use at work and that SVMG misled her about whether a peer review process had occurred, Dr. Denman sued, among others, the Hospital and SVMG. She alleged, in part, defamation, fraud, constructive fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and tortious interference with an employment relationship. The jury found against the Hospital and SVMG and awarded Dr. Denman $4.75 million. The trial court reduced the award to $3.5 million, finding that the fraud/constructive fraud/negligent misrepresentation damages were duplicative. The trial court also tolled accrual of prejudgment interest from mid-March to mid-June 2020 pursuant to a COVID-related Indiana Supreme Court Emergency Order.
On appeal, Dr. Denman asserts: (1) the trial court improperly reduced her damages award; (2) the tolling of the prejudgment interest was a constitutional taking; and (3) the trial court erred by not adding the award of prejudgment interest to the judgment. In their appeal, now consolidated with Dr. Denman’s, the Hospital and SVMG assert that the trial court should have granted summary judgment or, alternatively, judgment on the evidence on all of Dr. Denman’s claims. Siding with the Hospital and SVMG, the Indiana Hospital Association filed an amicus curiae brief, urging that the nurse’s report was protected by a qualified privilege.
The scheduled panel members are Judges Robb, Altice, and Weissmann.