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Expired time limit does not prevent estoppel argument, Supreme Court rules

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Citing the reasoning in a dissenting opinion, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled an injured driver can present his argument of why he should be allowed to file a lawsuit against a government entity even though the time limit has expired.

John Schoettmer was injured on Nov. 24, 2008, after he was involved in vehicular accident with Jolene Wright, who was working for South Central Community Action Program Inc. He underwent a series of medical treatments and filed all the paperwork needed to settle his claim with Cincinnati Insurance Co., South Central’s liability insurer.

Schoettmer declined a settlement offer and eventually sued Wright and South Central for personal injury damages.

In an amended complaint, South Central asserted that as a political subdivision governed by the Indiana Tort Claims Act, it could not be sued by Schoettmer and wife Karen because the plaintiffs had not provided a notice of their claim within ITCA’s 180-day deadline.  

The trial court granted summary judgment in South Central’s favor and a split Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. However, Judge Terry Crone dissented, arguing South Central should be estopped from asserting the Schoettmers’ noncompliance with the ITCA.

Like Judge Crone, the Supreme Court agreed with the Schoettmers’ argument that equitable estoppel should prevent South Central from using the ITCA time limit as a defense. The Schoettmers were not aware the agency was a government entity covered by the act.

In John W. Schoettmer & Karen Schoettmer v. Jolene C. Wright & South Central Community Action Program Inc., 49S04-1210-CT-607, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the court’s opinion.

Writing for the court, Judge Mark Massa pointed out that Schoettmer failed to act because of his reliance on the insurer’s instructions.

The insurance agent told him repeatedly to wait until all his medical treatments were complete before settling his claim. He provided a recorded statement and access to his medical records and bills by April 22, 2009. However, Cincinnati Insurance did not issue a settlement offer until Aug. 20, 2009, nearly three months after the 180-day time limit had expired.

“Thus,” Massa wrote, “we are included to agree with Judge Crone that ‘the designated evidence reveals that genuine issues of material fact remain, and the Schoettmers should be allowed to present proof of estoppel to the trial court.’”

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  • time limits
    Why does the government think they have the right to set time limits on filing law suits? If they can do this there should be a statute of limitations on everything including murder! This may sound extreme but all things are supposed to be equal under the law!

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  1. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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