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Split COA reverses trial court in personal injury case

December 30, 2011

Two Indiana Court of Appeals judges reversed a trial court’s denial of a woman’s motion for prejudgment interest in a case stemming from a car crash.

In Margaret Kosarko v. William A. Padula, Administrator of the Estate of Daniel L. Herndobler, Deceased, No. 45A03-1012-CT-668, Margaret Kosarko and Daniel Herndobler were in an auto accident. Herndobler died while Kosarko’s case against him was still pending. Kosarko served William Padula – the administrator of Herndobler’s estate – with a settlement offer in 2008 in the amount of $100,000. Padula did not accept the offer.

The case was presented to a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of Kosarko in the amount of $210,000. Subsequently, Kosarko filed a motion for prejudgment interest. After a hearing, the trial court denied Kosarko’s motion, concluding that her damages, as determined by the jury in this case, were not ascertainable within a time frame that justified granting her motion for prejudgment interest.

The COA held that prejudgment interest is allowable when the damages are capable of being determined by reference to some known standard, such as fair market value. The appellate court found no indication that Kosarko’s increased medical expenses were unnecessary, fraudulent or unrelated to the automobile accident, nor did it find evidence that Kosarko unduly delayed the surgery that caused the largest increase in her medical costs. It therefore reversed, holding Kosarko is entitled to $79,627.40 in prejudgment interest.

Judge Melissa May dissented, holding that the majority concluded that “Padula had ample opportunity to evaluate the known dollar cost of the dispute and consider settlement” in the year that elapsed between March 2009, when Padula learned of Kosarko’s back surgery, and the March 2010 trial. But May wrote that the majority did not explain how that conclusion is relevant to whether Kosarko’s damages were ascertainable during the 30 days in 2008 when Kosarko’s Qualified Settlement Offer was valid. May wrote that she would affirm the trial court’s denial of Kosarko’s motion.

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