ILNews

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. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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