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Judges disagree on whether Rhode Island law applies in wrongful death case

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A Court of Appeals judge dissented from her colleagues’ decision that Rhode Island law should apply in awarding a wrongful death settlement because she believed that the Rhode Island court would have found Indiana law applies.

Eddie G. Showley, as executor of the estate of Phillip J. Showley, appealed a trial court order distributing wrongful death proceeds to Tracey Kelsey, individually and as successor personal representative of the estate of Sonya Sue Showley. Eddie Showley is Phillip’s adult son; Kelsey is Sonya Showley’s adult daughter.

Sonya Showley died in 2006 in Indiana due to a defective hernia patch, which was made by a Rhode Island company. Phillip Showley became administrator of his wife’s estate and pursued a wrongful death action, but he died while the action was pending in Rhode Island. Kelsey, now administrator of her mother’s estate, accepted a $292,500 wrongful death entitlement as a settlement and sought partial distribution of the award. The Indiana trial court awarded her the wrongful death settlement as the sole surviving beneficiary of Sonya’s estate pursuant to the laws of Rhode Island. Eddie Showley claimed that the wrongful death proceeds should have been distributed pursuant to I.C 34-23-1-1 and thus, Phillip Showley’s estate would have been the sole beneficiary.

Relying on Matter of Estate of Bruck, 632 N.E.2d 745 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994), in which the COA approved the distribution of wrongful death proceeds in accordance with Ohio law, the majority affirmed the distribution to Kelsey based on Rhode Island law in Eddie G. Showley, Executor, Estate of Phillip J. Showley v. Tracey Kelsey, Individually and as Successor Personal Representative of the Estate of Sonya Sue Showley, 09A04-1301-ES-22.

“Phillip, as initial administrator of Sonya’s estate, filed a suit for wrongful death based on the laws of Rhode Island. In his complaint, Phillip requested to be awarded punitive damages for Sonya’s wrongful death. Pursuant to Rhode Island, punitive damages are permitted under the wrongful death statute, whereas this award cannot be made under Indiana law,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

“Because a recovery only exists under the law of Rhode Island, its distribution cannot be separated and must be enforced in accordance with Rhode Island statute in order to preserve the integrity of the underlying substantive right.”

In her dissent, Judge Elaine Brown believed lex loci delicti should control distribution of the proceeds instead of the significant relationship test.

“Indeed, my review of applicable Rhode Island law reveals that, had this matter proceeded to trial, the Rhode Island court would have decided to apply Indiana’s wrongful death statute,” she wrote. “Thus, Eddie, as Philip’s sole heir, is entitled to Philip’s share of the proceeds of Showley’s settlement, which is the remainder of the settlement proceeds after payment to Showley’s estate of ‘reasonable medical, hospital, funeral and burial expense[s],’ Ind. Code § 34-23-1-1, because Kelsey did not demonstrate that she is a dependent child.”

 

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  1. Please I need help with my class action lawsuits, im currently in pro-se and im having hard time findiNG A LAWYER TO ASSIST ME

  2. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  3. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

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  5. Warsaw indiana dcs lying on our case. We already proved that in our first and most recent court appearance i need people to contact me who have evidence of dcs malpractice please email or facebook nathaniel hollett thank you

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