Appeals court lets man sue state over false HIV test result in 1991
By Diana Penner (source: Indystar.com)
April 22, 2004
A Brownsburg man who erroneously believed he was HIV-positive because of an incorrect test report from the Indiana Department of Health has won a legal round.
Dimitrios Garnelis and his wife, Laura, sued the Department of Health because of a false-positive test result Garnelis received in 1991. Until he was on a visit to Greece in July 1999, where health officials retested him before prescribing treatment, Garnelis lived under the impression that he was HIV-positive.
The test in Greece indicated Garnelis was not carrying the HIV virus, which causes AIDS. A subsequent test in the United States confirmed the new results.
On the advice of their attorney, Barbara Germano, the Garnelises declined to comment.
In October 1999, the Garnelises filed a notice that they intended to sue the Department of Health. The agency countered that the suit came too late, arguing that state law required the complaint to have been filed within 270 days of the initial 1991 test.
Marion Superior Court Judge Gary Miller agreed.
But the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned Miller's ruling this week, saying it made no sense to require the Garnelises to have filed their complaint in 1991, before they even knew the test was wrong.
The 270-day clock, the appeals court said, began in July 1999, when the couple learned Dimitrios Garnelis was not HIV-positive. The couple filed their suit within that time period, the court said.
The Department of Health, represented by the Indiana attorney general's office, could appeal the case to the Indiana Supreme Court. A spokeswoman for the attorney general said that decision has not been made.
If the state decides to accept the appeals court's decision, the case would go back to Miller.
Separately, the Garnelises also have filed complaints against the Bell Flower Clinic, 1001 W. 10th St., Indianapolis, where Dimitrios Garnelis had his blood drawn for the initial test, and a physician.