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Appeals court finds for insurer in worker’s comp case where victim’s mother died

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The mother of an injured worker whose estate claims she died due to emotional distress caused by an insurer’s handling of her son’s case cannot directly sue the insurer before exhausting the regulatory process, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

In Amerisafe Risk Services, Inc., and Leerae Riggs v. The Estate of Hazel D. Wadsack, deceased, by Ronald J. Wadsack as Personal Rep., and Ronald J. Wadsack, individually, 88A01-1204-CT-144, the trial court without explanation denied Amerisafe’s motion to dismiss. The estate claimed that Hazel Wadsack died as a result of emotional distress at the handling of her son’s worker’s compensation claim. Matthew Wadsack had been severely shocked and burned while working for Mills Tree Service and was in a coma for some time.

“The Wadsacks argue that the Worker’s Compensation Board … does not have jurisdiction because their claims are not on behalf of Matthew, or based directly on his injuries, but instead are based on the handling of Matthew’s claims. We disagree,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote for the unanimous panel.

The judges ruled that I.C. 22-3-2-6.2 extends to personal representatives and next of kin. “While the Wadsacks may not have a claim for benefits pending themselves, the Board nonetheless has jurisdiction over their suit, which is a derivative of Matthew’s claim for benefits,” Robb wrote.

The court also rejected the Wadsacks’ argument that a requirement to have their case heard by the board deprived them of the open courts provision of articles 1 and 12 of the Indiana Constitution. It noted the Wadsacks would have access to court to challenge an adverse ruling from the Worker’s Compensation Board, and the panel also agreed with Amerisafe that direct suits against third-party insurers are generally not allowed in Indiana.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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