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2013 DTCI amicus report

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DTCI-Kite-Donald-SrIn 2013, the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana’s Amicus Committee participated in a number of interesting appeals. The cases DTCI became involved in this year addressed a variety of issues, including the naming of criminal assailants as nonparties in premises liability cases; naming an independent physician as a party in a case which is brought against a hospital where the suit is based upon the independent physician’s allegedly negligent acts or omissions; and the issue of whether Indiana’s General Wrongful Death Statute, Indiana Code § 34-23-1-1, allows attorney fees when there is/are no surviving spouse or dependents.

If you wish to request DTCI’s participation as amicus in your appeal, please do not hesitate to contact me. While DTCI does not become involved as amicus in each case in which its involvement is requested, the Amicus Committee carefully considers each request and values the opportunity to work with defense counsel throughout Indiana on the variety of issues which are presented on appeal.

Indiana Supreme Court cases

DTCI participated as amicus this past year in Santelli v. Rahmatullah and Super 8 Motel, 993 N.E.2d 167 (Ind. 2013), a very important case in which the defense bar ultimately prevailed. Santelli, which involved the “very duty doctrine” and the question of joint and several liability, pertained to the issue of whether, in a premises liability case in which the victim was murdered, the premises owner could name the criminal assailant as a nonparty. Frost Brown Todd’s Lucy Dollens, co-recipient of this year’s DTCI Defense Lawyer of the Year Award (and a valued member of the Amicus Committee), authored two briefs in this case: both the amicus brief which was filed in the Indiana Court of Appeals and the brief in support of the petition to transfer which was filed in the Indiana Supreme Court. Among other things, DTCI argued in is briefing that the Court of Appeals’ decision, were it to stand, would thrust upon defendants, who or which were the least responsible or culpable, the responsibility for far more than their share of the damages which are awarded at trial. The case was orally argued on Valentine’s Day. On Aug. 28, 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court handed down its opinion agreeing with the position taken by DTCI. The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously held, among other things, that the Indiana Comparative Fault Act does not preclude the allocation of fault between negligent and intentional tortfeasors.

DTCI also chose to participate as amicus in Amburgey v. Columbus Regional Hospital, 976 N.E.2d 709 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). In Amburgey, the Indiana Court of Appeals had held that a plaintiff is not required to name an independent physician as a party in a case which is brought against a hospital where the suit is based upon the independent physician’s allegedly negligent acts or omissions. DTCI member R. Thomas Bodkin, a former president and diplomat of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana, filed an amicus brief in support of the defendant hospital’s petition to transfer. On March 14, 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court denied the petition to transfer which DTCI supported. While DTCI did not ultimately prevail in Amburgey, the Amicus Committee thanks attorney Bodkin for his dedication and his hard work.

Indiana Court of Appeals cases

DTCI also filed an amicus brief this year in the Indiana Court of Appeals in Frederick v. SCI Propane, a wrongful-death case in which the trial court awarded the decedent’s estate $2.5 million dollars in attorney fees (on a $3.7 million dollar settlement reached post-verdict). The decedent was survived by a spouse and minor child. On appeal, defense counsel Kent M. Frandsen (Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson) argued, among other things, that the General Wrongful Death Statute, Indiana Code § 34-23-1-1, only allows attorney fees when there is no surviving spouse or dependent. I authored DTCI’s amicus brief arguing that attorney fees are not recoverable under Indiana’s General Wrongful Death Statute because the section of the statute that is applicable where a decedent leaves a surviving spouse or dependent does not expressly mention attorney fees and attorney fees are not “of the same genre” as the recoverable damages which are specifically listed in the statute.

Thanks to committee members, brief writers and the board

The Amicus Committee appreciates and thanks the attorneys who author amicus briefs and who worked with the attorneys for the parties which DTCI as an organization supported. The committee very much appreciates the DTCI board of directors and its members’ continued support.

I personally want to thank the other members of the committee for their diligence and commitment to the committee’s work. The current members of the Amicus Committee are Michele Bryant (Kahn Dees Donovan & Kahn); Lucy Dollens (Frost Brown Todd); Michael Dugan (Dugan & Voland); Daniel Glavin (O’Neill McFadden & Willett); Edward Harney (Hume Smith Geddes Green & Simmons); Phil Kalamaros (Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros); Peter H. Pogue (Schultz & Pogue), a long-time member of DTCI who has authored a number of amicus briefs in the past, who I am pleased to report joined the Amicus Committee this year; Crystal Rowe (Kightlinger & Gray), and Donald B. Kite Sr. (Wuertz Law Office).

Donald B. Kite Sr., of counsel with The Wuertz Law Office LLC in Indianapolis, is the chair of DTCI’s Amicus Committee. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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