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COA panels divided on attorney's fees under AWDA

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Nearly a month after an Indiana Court of Appeals panel ruled attorney's fees aren’t recoverable under the Adult Wrongful Death Act in a matter of first impression, another panel unanimously ruled they are recoverable.

A split court ruled July 20 in Jeffery H. McCabe, As Representative of the Estate of Jean Francis McCabe, Decedent v. Commissioner, Indiana Department of Insurance as Administrator of the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund, No. 49A02-0908-CV-728, that the “may include but are not limited to” language in the Adult Wrongful Death Act doesn’t allow for attorney’s fees. The majority ruled such a result would similarly “expand the circumscribed damages defined by the general assembly.” They relied on Butler v. Ind. Dept. of Ins., 904 N.E.2d 198 (Ind. 2009), which held this language in the AWDA doesn’t expand the class of such necessitated expenses nor direct the expansion of the circumscribed damages defined in the statute.

But Judges Melissa May, L. Mark Bailey, and Michael Barnes concluded otherwise today in Hematology-Oncology of Indiana, P.C. v. Hadley W. Fruits, Personal Rep. for the Estate of Elizabeth Ann Cadou, No. 49A05-0910-CV-556. The judges believed that Kuba v. Ristow Trucking Co., 508 N.E.2d 1, 2 (Ind. 1987), instructs that the “may include but are not limited to” language allows for other categories of compensatory damages, like attorney’s fees. The Kuba ruling took the view that although the legislature left open the statute to allow for other damages, these damages must be compensatory.

And attorney’s fees have been found to be in the nature of compensatory instead of punitive damages, wrote Judge May.

The judges also rejected Hematology-Oncology of Indiana’s argument that the attorney’s fee award violated the Medical Malpractice Act because the act limits the business’ liability to $250,000 and the combined award of damages and attorney’s fees would exceed that amount. The appellate court has previously ruled in Emergency Physicians of Indianapolis v. Pettit, 714 N.E.2d 1111, 1114 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999), that if they were to cap the fees based on the attorney’s fee award, then a party who engages in conduct that would warrant attorney’s fees could escape accountability for his conduct by alleging that the award would exceed the statutory limit.
 

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  1. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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