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MEDICAL MALPRACTICE AND BANKRUPTCY - EX PARTE JACKSON HOSPITAL & CLINIC, INC.

Ex parte Jackson Hospital & Clinic, Inc., [Ms. 1130342, Nov. 7, 2014] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2014). Joanne Anderson's failure to disclose in her bankruptcy a potential claim for medical malpractice judicially estops her from pursuing that claim. After cardiovascular surgery on October 8, 2010, Ms. Anderson had circulation problems in her feet, and her feet were amputated on December 8, 2010. On November 8, 2011, Anderson petitioned for bankruptcy, but did not disclose a medical negligence claim as a potential asset. She was discharged in March 2012; she filed this action on October 9, 2012; and in May 2013, she disclosed the bankruptcy proceeding in an interrogatory answer. Informed that the defendant intended to move for summary judgment, Anderson's attorney moved to reopen the bankruptcy case, and the bankruptcy trustee also filed such a motion. The bankruptcy trustee also notified the circuit court of the motion to reopen the bankruptcy case and, five months later, moved to be substituted as the real party in interest. The circuit court allowed the bankruptcy trustee to be substituted to pursue the medical negligence claim to the extent of the amount of the debts that had been discharged and the expenses of the bankruptcy proceeding, but the circuit court entered summary judgment for the defendants on Anderson's claims. The Supreme Court denies mandamus, rejecting the defendants' arguments that the trustee's motion to be substituted was untimely, and rejecting Anderson's arguments that judicial estoppel should not apply because she did not know she had a medical negligence claim when she filed her bankruptcy petition or while that proceeding was pending. The Court holds that the standard for judicial estoppel is not just what the plaintiff knew, but what she should have known, and held that, when Anderson argued that she could not have discovered her malpractice claim before December 2010, she admitted that she knew of it then.
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