ILNews

Court preserves woman's day in court despite delays

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a trial judge’s order to dismiss a woman’s medical malpractice case because of her failure to comply with discovery deadlines and trial rules, finding that the decision to deny her a day in court was too harsh.

In Sharon Wright and Leslie Wright v. Anthony E. Miller, D.P.M. and Achilles Podiatry Group, No. 54A01-1107-CT-302, the appellate panel reversed a ruling by Montgomery Superior Judge David Ault and sent the action back for further proceedings.

Sharon Wright brought a medical malpractice claim against Dr. Anthony Miller and Achilles Podiatry Group in Crawfordsville for an allegedly negligently performed bunion surgery in 2004.

After the medical review panel found in her favor, Wright brought the case to court in 2009. Discovery began, but Wright asked for continuances because she was not able to secure her expert witnesses and for personal medical reasons. In January 2011, the defendants asked for dismissal because of the delays.

The trial court struck Wright’s expert witness and dismissed her claims under Indiana Trial Rule 37(B) for failure to comply with discovery orders and Indiana Trial Rule 41(E) for failure to prosecute and failure to follow court orders. Specifically, the court noted Wright did not identify her expert witness on time and would have to proceed without the expert testimony at trial, and that all led to a lack of evidence in her case and warranted dismissal.

Although on appeal the judges noted their typical deference to the trial judges and a local court’s right to run its calendar efficiently, the appellate panel weighed that obligation with the individual litigant’s right to have her day in court. The delays in her being able to secure an expert witness were ultimately out of Wright’s control because of medical reasons, the appellate court noted, and the trial court hadn’t issued an order compelling discovery or warning that dismissal was on the horizon. Wright also wasn’t trying to deceive anyone, the appellate court found.

The appellate court found this case is unlike past cases where delays and missed deadlines were egregious and the sole fault of the offending party.

“We do not mean to suggest or imply by our opinion that the timely observance of pre-trial deadlines is unimportant, only that when all factors are considered, the extent to which Wright failed to comply with several deadlines was not sufficiently onerous or egregious to justify striking her expert and dismissing her claims without warning,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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