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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. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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