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Judge dissents in denial of rehearing

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Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Margret Robb has issued a lengthy dissent from her colleagues’ denial to rehear a case involving the state’s patient compensation fund. After reviewing the case, she believed the appellate court shouldn’t have applied Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 323.

Posted Tuesday afternoon, the nine-page dissent in Indiana Dept. of Insurance, et al. v. Robin Everhart, personal representative of the estate of James K. Everhart Jr., No. 84A01-0912-CV-614, re-examines the use of Section 323 and the line of cases that developed after the Indiana Supreme Court adopted the section’s approach in Mayhue v. Sparks, 653 N.E.2d 1384 (Ind. 1995). Section 323 outlines that one is liable for harm to another if the failure to exercise reasonable care increases the risk of such harm. It allows the plaintiff to avoid summary judgment on the issue of proximate cause even when there was a less than 50 percent chance of recovery absent the negligence.

James Everhart was injured in an automobile accident and later died. It was determined that he had a better than 80 percent chance of surviving his injuries in the absence of a doctor’s negligence. The trial court awarded Everhart’s estate the statutory maximum of $1 million from the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund. The fund appealed and the COA reversed, finding the trial court should have awarded damages only in proportion to the increase in risk of harm that was caused by the malpractice.

Mayhue and the line of cases that followed it don’t apply to the instant matter, she decided, believing the fact that the patients in those cases had less than a 50 percent chance of recovery or survival absent medical negligence was critical to the holding of those cases.

“In my view, section 323 was adopted in Mayhue and applied in the ensuing cases to specifically address the situation where a patient already has a less than fifty percent chance of survival. A plaintiff in such a situation could never prove under traditional tort principles that a doctor whose negligence contributed to the death was also the proximate cause, but Mayhue provides an avenue of recourse,” she wrote.

Instead, in Everhart’s case, the doctor’s negligence was the proximate cause of his death. Robin Everhart proceeded to recover under a traditional tort analysis and Judge Robb believed that the appellate court should have done so as well. She would grant the petition for rehearing to affirm the trial court.

She also pointed out the overall tone of Robin Everhart’s petition for rehearing is “not in general effective appellate advocacy” with the opinion saying the previous ruling “destroys the foundation of our civil justice system” and allowing the decision to stand will render proximate cause meaningless.

“I would caution counsel that future disagreement with this court can and should be addressed without unnecessary hyperbole,” she wrote.

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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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