Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Appeals Court Denies Malpractice Suit Against Akron Doctor and Hospital

Two sets of parents, who sued after being accused of abusing their infant children, have lost another round in their legal battle. The Ninth District Court of Appeals has ruled that the Summit County Court of Common Pleas was correct to dismiss the lawsuit against Akron Children’s Hospital and Dr. Daryl Steiner.

In separate incidents in 2006, Nathaniel and Monica Humrighouse and Lee-Ann and Daniel Dunkle took their babies to Akron Children’s Hospital to be examined for head trauma, and in each case Dr. Steiner reported his findings of suspected abuse to children’s services. The babies were removed from their families for several months until the charges could be disproved.

Both sets of parents filed a lawsuit in 2010 alleging, among other things, medical malpractice, defamation, and malicious prosecution. A Summit County judge granted the hospital and doctor summary judgment on all claims based on immunity under Ohio law. In appealing the decision, the parents argued the trial court was wrong that state law gave Dr. Steiner absolute immunity for his participation in the child abuse court cases.

 “A careful review of the record does not support a finding that Dr. Steiner acted in bad faith in his depositions, affidavits, or his meeting with the prosecutor and law enforcement,” Appeals Court Judge Beth Whitmore wrote in the decision

As for the claim of medical malpractice, Judge Whitmore stated this case was not about deficient medical treatment but rather the alleged harm related to the report of abuse that a doctor was required by law to make.

“Because the alleged harm was related to the reporting of the suspected abuse, the
court did not err in finding Dr. Steiner was entitled to absolute immunity under R.C.
2151.421(G)(1)(a). As such, the court did not err in granting Appellees’ motion for summary judgment on the medical malpractice claim,” Judge Whitmore said.

The appeals court also sided with the trial court’s ability to approve the defendant’s summary judgment after having denied a previous motion.

Judge Carla Moore concurred with the opinion and Judge Donna Carr concurred in judgment only.

Judge Carr wrote she would have interpreted “medical treatment” to include medical diagnosis: “While I agree that the Parents cannot prevail on their claims for medical malpractice, I would not so hold on the basis of absolute immunity.”

Dunkle v. Children's Hosp. Med. Ctr. of Akron, 2013-Ohio-5555
Opinion: http://sc.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/9/2013/2013-ohio-5555.pdf
Appeal From: Summit County Court of Common Pleas
Judgment Appealed From Is: Affirmed
Date of Judgment Entry on Appeal: December 18, 2013

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