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COA adopts Restatement (Third) of Torts Section 14

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court in concluding a new trial is warranted to determine allocation of fault in a man’s murder. At issue is the percentage of fault to allocate to a criminal defendant and his former employer.

In Mary E. Santelli, as Administrator of the Estate of James F. Santelli v. Abu M. Rahmatullah, Individually and d/b/a Super 8 Motel, No. 49A04-1011-CT-704, the estate of James F. Santelli filed a suit against Abu M. Rahmatullah, arguing he had breached his duty of care to Santelli by hiring Joseph Pryor, giving him a master keycard to the motel without running a criminal background check, and failing to provide proper security to the motel. After he left his job with the hotel, Pryor broke into the room Santelli was staying in and murdered him. Rahmatullah asserted a nonparty defense, naming Pryor as a nonparty defendant.

The jury allocated one percent fault to Santelli, two percent to Rahmatullah, and 97 percent to Pryor and entered a verdict in favor of the estate for $41,400 – the portion of the damages award for which Rahmatullah was liable. The estate filed a motion to correct error and sought a new trial, claiming the trial court erred by instructing the jury to allocate fault among Santelli, Rahmatullah and Pryor without also instructing the jury on the very duty doctrine. The trial court set aside the verdict with respect to allocation of fault.

The COA concluded that the very duty doctrine is not abrogated by the Indiana Tort Claims Act, and at trial, the judge should instruct the jury on the very duty doctrine, as set forth in Restatement (Second) of Torts, Section 449. The judges also decided to adopt Section 14 of Restatement (Third) of Torts, entitled “Tortfeasor Liable For Failure To Protect The Plaintiff From The Specific Risk Of An Intentional Tort,” holding that it would enable a jury to determine fault in a manner that will carry out the goal of adequately compensating the injured party.

The issue is remanded for further proceedings.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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