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Fraudulent concealment tolls Wrongful Death Act’s limitations period

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The Wrongful Death Act’s two-year limitations period is tolled by fraudulent concealment, and plaintiffs whose wrongful death claims have been fraudulently concealed beyond the act’s limitations period have a full two years after the concealment is or should be discovered with reasonable diligence to file their claims, the Indiana Court of Appeals held in a case of first impression.

Venita Hargis was a resident of The Good Samaritan Home, a nursing home in Evansville, in November 2006 when the staff told her daughter Julia Luker that Hargis fell and had to go to the hospital. The explanation was plausible because Hargis suffered from “mini-strokes.” She died Nov. 26, 2006, from a head injury from the alleged fall. In November 2009, a former employee of the nursing home told another daughter, Peggy McGee, that Hargis had been attacked by another resident, which caused her fall and head injury that led to her death.

An estate was opened for Hargis in December 2010 and the plaintiffs filed their complaint under the Wrongful Death Act Oct. 27, 2011. They alleged Good Samaritan fraudulently concealed the true cause of Hargis’ death. Good Samaritan fought the suit, arguing the plaintiffs waited more than two years after Hargis’ death to file the complaint.

The trial court concluded that the WDA’s two-year deadline had been equitably tolled but that the plaintiffs failed to file their complaint within a reasonable time. The judge granted summary judgment for Good Samaritan.

In Virginia E. Alldredge and Julia A. Luker, as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Venita Hargis v. The Good Samaritan Home, Inc., 82A01-1206-CT-249, the appellate court agreed with the trial court’s reasoning that the deadline was tolled, but found fraudulent concealment allows plaintiffs a full two years after the concealment is discovered to file their wrongful death claims.

“We see no reason to impose a shorter period of time in the wrongful death context when the reason for the plaintiff’s failure to discover the action within the WDA’s two-year limitations period is the fault of the defendant rather than simply the result of a medical condition’s long latency period,” Judge John Baker wrote. “In short, it is abhorrent to think that we would treat people who have been intentionally defrauded regarding their loved one’s deaths worse than others … where the defendant’s misfeasance has been undiscovered merely on account of nature’s own time frame.”

A decedent’s personal representative shall be allowed to bring the action within the lesser of two years from the date of the discovery of the cause of the action or two years from the discovery of facts that, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should lead to the discovery of the wrongful act or omission that resulted in the death.

In coming to its conclusion, the judges avoided holding that the WDA’s two-year statute of limitations period is unconstitutional as applied to the plaintiffs – as they argued – under the Indiana or U.S. Constitutions.

The case is remanded for continuation of the litigation.

 

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  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

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  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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