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Woman’s tort claim notice insufficient

June 26, 2012

A trial court improperly granted summary judgment to a woman on whether her notice to the city of Indianapolis was sufficient to inform it of a potential personal injury claim, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

In City of Indianapolis v. Rachel Buschman, 49A02-1108-CT-782, the city of Indianapolis on interlocutory appeal claimed that the tort claim notice Rachel Buschman provided following an accident with a city police officer was insufficient. Buschman was rear-ended by the officer on July 25, 2008; on Aug. 1, she submitted her tort claim notice to the city. In it, she described the damage and said “no injuries.”

Less than a year later she sued the city, alleging as a result of its negligence she suffered personal injuries, including pain in her lower body and back and herniation of lumbar discs. The city contended that her claims were barred because her tort claim notice didn’t include information about personal injuries.

Buschman argued that at the time she mailed her notice, she only had soreness and didn’t believe she had an injury. It was later that she decided to seek medical treatment. The trial court concluded the notice was sufficient as a matter of law.

The Court of Appeals reversed because the notice contained an explicit denial of injuries so the city had no reason to investigate a personal injury claim or anticipate a claim for medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. The judges rejected her claim that the purpose of the statute was fulfilled because the city knew of her intent to make a claim and they could investigate the specifics of the accident to prepare a defense.

“[W]e hold that, when a claimant’s notice contains a specific and definitive assessment of loss, his or her recovery is limited to the loss described in the original notice. Alternatively, if, as is the case here, additional losses are discovered after the notice has been submitted, we see no reason why the claimant could not amend the original notice or submit another notice in a timely manner,” he wrote.

The judges remanded for further proceedings.

 

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