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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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