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Court rules on tort claims and wrongful death

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The Indiana Supreme Court tackled the issue of the interaction of the statute of limitations provision under the state's Wrongful Death Act and the statute of limitations provision for an underlying substantive tort claim in two opinions released Dec. 24. In both opinions, the high court relied on its ruling in Ellenwine v. Farley, 846 N.E.2d 657, 666 (Ind. 2006).

In Therese Newkirk, personal representative of the estate of Martha O'Neal, deceased v. Bethlehem Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC, No. 90S05-0812-CV-168, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Bethlehem Woods in the estate's complaint under the WDA after Martha O'Neal died. O'Neal went to Bethlehem Woods for rehab following surgery and was the victim of medical malpractice. She died in November 2001. More than two years after the medical negligence occurred, but within two years of her death, the estate filed the complaint alleging Bethlehem providing negligent medical care that led to O'Neal's death.

Citing Ellenwine, the Supreme Court ruled the wrongful death claim was required to be filed within two years of the malpractice. The provisions of the Medical Malpractice Act don't apply in this case because Bethlehem doesn't meet the applicable qualifications and the claim is subject to the provisions of the state's Professional Services Statute. Ellenwine still applies because the substantive tort claim underlying the wrongful death action is precisely the same as it was in the Ellenwine scenario, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan. If a death is caused by malpractice, the malpractice claim terminates at the patient's death and a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the occurrence of the malpractice. O'Neal's wrongful death claim should have been filed within two years of the occurrence of the malpractice since her death is alleged to have been caused by the malpractice, Justice Sullivan wrote.

In Technisand Inc. v. Jessie Melton, personal representative of the estate of Patty Melton, deceased, No. 30S01-0801-CV-28, the Supreme Court ruled Jessie Melton couldn't use the Indiana Products Liability Act's statute of limitations as an alternative to the statute of limitations within the WDA. Melton's wife, Patty, developed a form of leukemia and died in July 2002. Patty may have been exposed to a carcinogen at work through a resin-coated sand made by Technisand. In February 2005, Melton added Technisand as a defendant in his lawsuit against Patty's employer and another company.

The trial court denied Technisand's motion for summary judgment. The Indiana Court of Appeals held the PLA provided the relevant limitations period for Melton to file his claim against Technisand. However, since Patty died from personal injuries allegedly caused by Technisand, Melton's claim was a claim for wrongful death once Patty died, wrote Justice Sullivan. Again looking to Ellenwine, the high court reversed the denial of Technisand's motion for summary judgment.

The injuries forming the basis of Melton's substantive tort claim caused his wife's death and pursuant to Indiana's Survival Statute, her products liability claim against the company ended at her death, leaving only the WDA claim. The WDA requires an action be filed within two years of the decedent's date of death, and since Melton didn't bring the suit against Technisand within two years, his suit wasn't timely filed.

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  1. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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