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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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