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High court grants transfer Thursday

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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer Thursday to a case questioning whether the Indiana Department of Transportation is liable for the death of an employee of an independent contractor working on a highway project.

In Lorraine Bunn, as personal representative of the estate of Robert P. Bunn, deceased, and Robert L. Bunn v. Indiana Dept. of Transportation, No. 50A03-0810-CV-504, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in favor of INDOT on the estate's negligence claims. Robert P. Bunn was fatally electrocuted while working on a highway construction project INDOT contracted to his employer.

INDOT moved for summary judgment, arguing it had no duty to Robert or his son Robert L. Bunn (Bobby), who witnessed the accident, because they were independent contractors.

Judges L. Mark Bailey and Margret Robb cited Indiana Dept. of Transportation v. Howard, 879 N.E.2d 1119 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008), and concluded that INDOT couldn't avoid liability on the basis of its delegation of its responsibilities to maintain and repair state highways. They also believed INDOT's contract with Pioneer, who subcontracted work to the company where Bunn worked, held INDOT liable.

Judge Carr Darden dissented, because he believed Howard applies only to work performed by an independent contractor in which the negligent execution of that work may endanger the traveling public. The person killed in Howard was a person traveling on the road, not an employee. The judge also believed INDOT couldn't be held liable based on the contract it had with Pioneer.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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