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Woman's claim fails under modified impact and bystander rules

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The woman who sued a northern Indiana lawyer and his law firm for not filing her lawsuit against a school district following the discovery that her grandson was sexually abused by a teacher’s assistant lost her appeal.

Dianne Perkins, who had legal custody of her teenaged, learning-disabled grandson, hired Jeffrey Stesiak of Pfeiffer Morgan & Stesiak to represent her and her grandson in all claims against the school district arising out of the sexual abuse. Perkins wanted Stesiak to also file a claim on her behalf for emotional distress. She terminated his representation three years after hiring him because he never filed a lawsuit against the school. With new legal counsel, she was able to settle her grandson’s claims against the school but the statute of limitations had run on her claim prior to her firing of Stesiak.

In 2010, she sued Stesiak and the firm for legal malpractice because he didn’t file the lawsuit on her behalf within the statute of limitations. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Stesiak.

In Dianne L. Perkins v. Jeffrey Stesiak, and Pfeifer, Morgan and Stesiak, No. 71A03-1111-PL-521, Perkins argued that she had a claim based on her own emotional distress relating to the sexual abuse of her grandson based on the bystander theory of recovery and Indiana’s modified impact rule. The Court of Appeals found her arguments under either rule failed.

The fact that Perkins experienced a number of physical confrontations with her grandson at home during the period of sexual abuse doesn’t establish the necessary direct physical impact required under the modified impact rule, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander. The bystander rule applies when a close relative witnesses or comes upon the scene soon after the death or severe injury of a loved one. Perkins never came upon the scene during or in the immediate aftermath of the sexual abuse, and she learned of it months later.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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