Justices reverse, reinstate wrongful death claim against nursing home

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The estate of a woman who died in a nursing home after an attack by another resident may pursue a wrongful death claim, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The family was initially told the woman suffered a fall but learned of the attack years later.
Justices reversed a trial court grant of summary judgment for the nursing home in Virginia E. Alldredge and Julia A. Luker, as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Venita Hargis v. The Good Samaritan Home, Inc., 82S01-1305-CT-363. Vernita Hargis lived at Good Samaritan Home in Evansville in November 2006 when a daughter received a call from a nurse saying that Hargis was ill after suffering a fall. Hargis was hospitalized later that day and died a few days later from the head injury she sustained.

A nurse told one of Hargis’ daughters almost three years later that Hargis had been attacked by another resident. In December 2010, the family sued, and the nursing home was granted summary judgment in Vanderburgh Superior Court on its argument that the complaint was time-barred, and that even if fraudulent concealment occurred, that could not extend the statutory two-year filing period.

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, giving plaintiffs an opportunity to prove common-law fraud, but holding that the Fraudulent Concealment statute could not apply because it was enacted after the Wrongful Death Act.

Though an issue of first impression, Justice Mark Massa wrote for the court, “Based upon our review of the historical and precedential records, we conclude that if a plaintiff makes the necessary factual showing, the Fraudulent Concealment Statute may apply to toll the Wrongful Death Act’s two-year filing period. In so holding, we break very little new ground."  

“Public policy considerations further bolster our conclusion. Were we to hold otherwise, we would be incentivizing fraud and thus thwarting the obvious purpose of the Fraudulent Concealment Statute,” Massa wrote. “And our decision today is consistent with that of courts in other jurisdictions, which have routinely found fraud may toll a statutory filing period even when it is a condition precedent to the existence of the claim rather than a statute of limitation.”

The opinion traces statutes, common law and caselaw dating back more than 200 years to find numerous examples tolling in similar Indiana cases. The opinion opens with the final opinion written by Indiana’s fifth justice, Stephen C. Stevens – Raymond v. Simonson, an 1835 ruling –  in which he laments “the labyrinth of difficulties, discriminations, technicalities and shades that have gathered around the statute of limitations.”

In a footnote, Massa notes a biography of Stevens says after he resigned from the bench he returned to private practice. “(T)hirty-three years later, after losing his fortune in a bad railroad investment, he died destitute in the Indiana Hospital for the Insane.”



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues