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Judge dissents in denial of rehearing

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Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Margret Robb has issued a lengthy dissent from her colleagues’ denial to rehear a case involving the state’s patient compensation fund. After reviewing the case, she believed the appellate court shouldn’t have applied Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 323.

Posted Tuesday afternoon, the nine-page dissent in Indiana Dept. of Insurance, et al. v. Robin Everhart, personal representative of the estate of James K. Everhart Jr., No. 84A01-0912-CV-614, re-examines the use of Section 323 and the line of cases that developed after the Indiana Supreme Court adopted the section’s approach in Mayhue v. Sparks, 653 N.E.2d 1384 (Ind. 1995). Section 323 outlines that one is liable for harm to another if the failure to exercise reasonable care increases the risk of such harm. It allows the plaintiff to avoid summary judgment on the issue of proximate cause even when there was a less than 50 percent chance of recovery absent the negligence.

James Everhart was injured in an automobile accident and later died. It was determined that he had a better than 80 percent chance of surviving his injuries in the absence of a doctor’s negligence. The trial court awarded Everhart’s estate the statutory maximum of $1 million from the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund. The fund appealed and the COA reversed, finding the trial court should have awarded damages only in proportion to the increase in risk of harm that was caused by the malpractice.

Mayhue and the line of cases that followed it don’t apply to the instant matter, she decided, believing the fact that the patients in those cases had less than a 50 percent chance of recovery or survival absent medical negligence was critical to the holding of those cases.

“In my view, section 323 was adopted in Mayhue and applied in the ensuing cases to specifically address the situation where a patient already has a less than fifty percent chance of survival. A plaintiff in such a situation could never prove under traditional tort principles that a doctor whose negligence contributed to the death was also the proximate cause, but Mayhue provides an avenue of recourse,” she wrote.

Instead, in Everhart’s case, the doctor’s negligence was the proximate cause of his death. Robin Everhart proceeded to recover under a traditional tort analysis and Judge Robb believed that the appellate court should have done so as well. She would grant the petition for rehearing to affirm the trial court.

She also pointed out the overall tone of Robin Everhart’s petition for rehearing is “not in general effective appellate advocacy” with the opinion saying the previous ruling “destroys the foundation of our civil justice system” and allowing the decision to stand will render proximate cause meaningless.

“I would caution counsel that future disagreement with this court can and should be addressed without unnecessary hyperbole,” she wrote.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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