2013 DTCI amicus report

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DTCI-Kite-Donald-SrIn 2013, the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana’s Amicus Committee participated in a number of interesting appeals. The cases DTCI became involved in this year addressed a variety of issues, including the naming of criminal assailants as nonparties in premises liability cases; naming an independent physician as a party in a case which is brought against a hospital where the suit is based upon the independent physician’s allegedly negligent acts or omissions; and the issue of whether Indiana’s General Wrongful Death Statute, Indiana Code § 34-23-1-1, allows attorney fees when there is/are no surviving spouse or dependents.

If you wish to request DTCI’s participation as amicus in your appeal, please do not hesitate to contact me. While DTCI does not become involved as amicus in each case in which its involvement is requested, the Amicus Committee carefully considers each request and values the opportunity to work with defense counsel throughout Indiana on the variety of issues which are presented on appeal.

Indiana Supreme Court cases

DTCI participated as amicus this past year in Santelli v. Rahmatullah and Super 8 Motel, 993 N.E.2d 167 (Ind. 2013), a very important case in which the defense bar ultimately prevailed. Santelli, which involved the “very duty doctrine” and the question of joint and several liability, pertained to the issue of whether, in a premises liability case in which the victim was murdered, the premises owner could name the criminal assailant as a nonparty. Frost Brown Todd’s Lucy Dollens, co-recipient of this year’s DTCI Defense Lawyer of the Year Award (and a valued member of the Amicus Committee), authored two briefs in this case: both the amicus brief which was filed in the Indiana Court of Appeals and the brief in support of the petition to transfer which was filed in the Indiana Supreme Court. Among other things, DTCI argued in is briefing that the Court of Appeals’ decision, were it to stand, would thrust upon defendants, who or which were the least responsible or culpable, the responsibility for far more than their share of the damages which are awarded at trial. The case was orally argued on Valentine’s Day. On Aug. 28, 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court handed down its opinion agreeing with the position taken by DTCI. The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously held, among other things, that the Indiana Comparative Fault Act does not preclude the allocation of fault between negligent and intentional tortfeasors.

DTCI also chose to participate as amicus in Amburgey v. Columbus Regional Hospital, 976 N.E.2d 709 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). In Amburgey, the Indiana Court of Appeals had held that a plaintiff is not required to name an independent physician as a party in a case which is brought against a hospital where the suit is based upon the independent physician’s allegedly negligent acts or omissions. DTCI member R. Thomas Bodkin, a former president and diplomat of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana, filed an amicus brief in support of the defendant hospital’s petition to transfer. On March 14, 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court denied the petition to transfer which DTCI supported. While DTCI did not ultimately prevail in Amburgey, the Amicus Committee thanks attorney Bodkin for his dedication and his hard work.

Indiana Court of Appeals cases

DTCI also filed an amicus brief this year in the Indiana Court of Appeals in Frederick v. SCI Propane, a wrongful-death case in which the trial court awarded the decedent’s estate $2.5 million dollars in attorney fees (on a $3.7 million dollar settlement reached post-verdict). The decedent was survived by a spouse and minor child. On appeal, defense counsel Kent M. Frandsen (Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson) argued, among other things, that the General Wrongful Death Statute, Indiana Code § 34-23-1-1, only allows attorney fees when there is no surviving spouse or dependent. I authored DTCI’s amicus brief arguing that attorney fees are not recoverable under Indiana’s General Wrongful Death Statute because the section of the statute that is applicable where a decedent leaves a surviving spouse or dependent does not expressly mention attorney fees and attorney fees are not “of the same genre” as the recoverable damages which are specifically listed in the statute.

Thanks to committee members, brief writers and the board

The Amicus Committee appreciates and thanks the attorneys who author amicus briefs and who worked with the attorneys for the parties which DTCI as an organization supported. The committee very much appreciates the DTCI board of directors and its members’ continued support.

I personally want to thank the other members of the committee for their diligence and commitment to the committee’s work. The current members of the Amicus Committee are Michele Bryant (Kahn Dees Donovan & Kahn); Lucy Dollens (Frost Brown Todd); Michael Dugan (Dugan & Voland); Daniel Glavin (O’Neill McFadden & Willett); Edward Harney (Hume Smith Geddes Green & Simmons); Phil Kalamaros (Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros); Peter H. Pogue (Schultz & Pogue), a long-time member of DTCI who has authored a number of amicus briefs in the past, who I am pleased to report joined the Amicus Committee this year; Crystal Rowe (Kightlinger & Gray), and Donald B. Kite Sr. (Wuertz Law Office).

Donald B. Kite Sr., of counsel with The Wuertz Law Office LLC in Indianapolis, is the chair of DTCI’s Amicus Committee. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.