Health & Hospital Corp. sued over possible Open Door violation

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A lawsuit has been filed against the members of the Health & Hospital Corp. of Marion County Board of Trustees for allegedly violating Indiana’s Open Door Law in appealing a nursing home dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Morgan Daly of the Indiana Statewide Independent Living Council is the plaintiff in the complaint filed Monday in Marion Superior Court. The civil suit is asking the trial court to declare HHC violated Indiana’s Open Door Law by petitioning the Supreme Court without the board’s approval at a public meeting and to impose a civil penalty against the board members.

In a September opinion, Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt found HHC should have been more public in its plan for handling the lawsuit filed by the family of the late Gorgi Talevski.

The family alleged HHC violated the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act by not properly caring for Talevski when he was a resident of an HHC facility. After the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana dismissed the case, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and HHC petitioned the Supreme Court.

At issue in the case is whether private citizens can sue to enforce spending clause statutes when the language of the law does not explicitly say individuals have a private right of action.

The Supreme Court accepted the Talevski case and oral arguments are scheduled for Nov. 8. Under Supreme Court Rule 46, HHC could file to withdraw its petition any time until the justices issue an opinion in the case.

HHC has argued to the public access counselor that the Open Door Law did not apply. The corporation asserted the Supreme Court petition was part of its ongoing litigation of the case that, similar to roughly 3,000 other litigation matters, did not require the board’s approval.

However, the counselor determined that by not seeking the board’s authorization for an “act as momentous” as petitioning the Supreme Court, HHC ran afoul of both the spirit of the Open Door Law and the intent of the Legislature.

Daly’s complaint states Indiana’s Open Door Law permits a complaint to be filed to obtain a declaratory judgment; enjoin continuing or future violations; declare void any final action taken at any meeting that should have been public; and impose a civil penalty.

In addition to fining the board members, the lawsuit requests that the court expedite the matter and award Daly reasonable attorney fees and costs.

William Groth of Vlink Law Firm in Indianapolis is representing Daly. The Health & Hospital Corp. did not respond to a request for comment by IL deadline.

The lawsuit is Morgan Galloway Daly v. Gregory S. Fehribach, Carl L. Drummer, Robert W. Lazard, Dr. Geet Karnik Mantravadi, Monica Crain, Thomas Hanify, and Beverly Mukes-Gaither, as members of its Board of Trustees; and the Health & Hospital Corp. of Marion County

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One thought on “Health & Hospital Corp. sued over possible Open Door violation

  1. HHC board needs some hand slapping. The “Marion County” entity owns nursing homes across the state. That should be one big red flag right there.

    I suspect that this board is a rubber stamp group for an ambitious CEO and has been for a long time, with little or no idea what is actually happening, or giving little or no guidance. They most likely don’t even know they should be guiding the direction of the HHC.

    I would hope a decent fine would make them realize the do have some responsibility for the guidance of the corporation, and maybe make a few of them retire early so that new more responsible people can replace them.