In a recent case heard in front of a bankruptcy court in the Eastern District of Kentucky, a defendant won her summary judgment motion seeking to dismiss a case requesting payment of a medical malpractice judgment against her because she had filed for bankruptcy after the event giving rise to the claim.
Hunter v. Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, LLC
In the recent case, Hunter v. Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, LLC, a plaintiff sought to bring a medical malpractice claim against the defendant doctor. Evidently, the defendant doctor had performed a surgery on the plaintiff on August 14, 2009 and the plaintiff believed that the doctor committed malpractice in some way during the surgery.
However, the defendant claimed that she should be dismissed from the suit because she had declared bankruptcy after the surgery but before the filing of the instant claim. A brief timeline of the relevant dates is as follows:
- August 14, 2009: Defendant performs surgery during which alleged malpractice occurs.
- February 10, 2011: Defendant filed for bankruptcy.
- May 24, 2011: A bankruptcy court discharges the defendant’s debt.
- October 28, 2011: The plaintiff filed the instant malpractice action against the defendant.
The plaintiff correctly acknowledged that the general rule is that pre-bankruptcy claims of medical malpractice are discharged when the defendant doctor files for bankruptcy. However, she claimed that the facts of this case met the “willful and malicious” exception to the general rule.
Willful and Malicious
As a general matter, medical malpractice claims that arise out of a pre-bankruptcy event are discharged after the completion of the bankruptcy. However, if a plaintiff can prove that the conduct of the defendant doctor was willful and malicious, the debt is not subject to discharge. Thus, the plaintiff could still seek to collect the debt. However, importantly, the creditor must request that the exception apply.
Here, the creditor (the plaintiff) did not request that the “willful and malicious” exception to the general rule apply to the case in front of the bankruptcy court. Instead, the first time the creditor raised the issue of the willful and malicious exception was after the bankruptcy court had already heard the case. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff was not able to raise the claim at this late juncture and was precluded from bringing the argument up anew.
Are You Considering Filing For Bankruptcy?
As you can see, the procedural rules in bankruptcy court can make a critical difference in how a case is handled. With so much on the line, it only makes sense to make sure that you take every precaution you can. With the assistance of a skilled and knowledgeable Kentucky bankruptcy lawyer, you will be able to effectively navigate the bankruptcy courts and feel confident in all of your decisions along the way. At the law firm of Kruger & Schwartz, we have years of combined experience in bankruptcy courts in Indiana as well as in Kentucky. To find out more about the bankruptcy laws in Kentucky or Indiana, and to speak to a dedicated Kentucky bankruptcy law attorney about the specific facts of your case, click here or call 866-366-3328.
More Blog Posts:
Federal Bankruptcy Court Goes over the Differences Between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcies, Kentucky Bankruptcy Lawyers Blog, published March 31, 2014.
Federal Court in Western District of Kentucky Refuses to Change Lower Court’s Order that Debt was Dischargeable, Kentucky Bankruptcy Lawyers Blog, published March 25, 2014.