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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. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

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