In this medical malpractice case, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided, as an issue of first impression, that a proposed complaint for medical malpractice is not considered filed with the Indiana Department of Insurance on the day it is mailed if it sent by a third-party private carrier. In this case, the result was that a proposed complaint that was sent by FedEx the day the statute of limitations expired was not deemed timely filed and the Plaintiff’s case was, therefore, barred by the statute of limitations. The Court relied on Indiana Code 34-18-7-3, which states “a proposed complaint under IC 34-18-8 is considered filed when a copy of the proposed complaint is delivered or mailed by registered or certified mail to the commissioner.” The Court held that under the plain language of the statute, registered or certified mail does not include sending a complaint via a third-party carrier such as FedEx. The Court recognized that Trial Rule 5(F)(4) allows for the filing of pleadings by a third-party commercial carrier and states that the date of filing is the date of deposit with such a third-party commercial carrier. However, this trial rule applies, by its very terms, to filing with a court. Medical Malpractice complaints are first filed with the Department of Insurance, not a court. Therefore, the plain language of the statute governs, or in, says that a complaint is not filed until it is either received by the commissioner or deposited with the U.S. Postal Service via certified or registered mail.
This case is of obvious importance to both appellate practitioners and medical malpractice attorneys. Anytime a proposed complaint is filed on or near the statute of limitations, it is certainly worth checking to see if the complaint was sent by a third-party carrier or by U.S. mail as the statue requires.
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