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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. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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