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Judges: State-law claims can proceed

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has allowed a woman’s state claim against a sheriff following the suicide of her son in jail to go forward even though she previously had accepted an offer of judgment in District Court on a federal claim.

Eighteen-year-old Gregory Zick killed himself while in custody at the St. Joseph County jail. His mother, Cathy Minix, brought a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 claim on behalf of Zick’s estate in federal court against Sheriff Frank Canarecci Jr., and other defendants, including medical providers Memorial Health Care and Madison Center Inc. She also asserted several state-law claims, including medical malpractice and claims under the Child Wrongful Death Statute.

At issue in Cathy Minix, et al. v. Sheriff Frank Canarecci, Jr., et al., No. 71A04-1009-CT-591, is the Section 1983 deliberate indifference claim against Canarecci in his official capacity. He made an offer of judgment to Minix for $75,000, which Minix accepted. The offer didn’t say whether it referred to that federal claim, a state claim, or both. Having resolved the other federal claims on summary judgment, the District Court dismissed all of the state-law claims without prejudice.

Minix then filed complaints in state court against the medical providers alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death under the CWDS and a wrongful death claim against Canarecci in his official capacity. The trial court entered summary judgment for the sheriff, finding principles of res judicata barred Minix’s claims. The judge denied summary judgment for the medical providers.

On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed regarding judgment in favor of the sheriff. Because the federal judge’s judgment plainly indicated that all the state-law claims would be dismissed without prejudice, Minix’s state-law CWDS claim against the sheriff in his official capacity isn’t barred by res judicata. The appellate judges came to this conclusion applying the ordinary preclusion principles to the consent judgment and the principles of contractual interpretation.

Also, a recovery by Minix under the state-law claims would not amount to double recovery because the federal claim was asserted by Minix on behalf of Zick’s estate. Her state-law claims are asserted as Zick’s mother, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

The judges also rejected the medical providers’ argument that because of the result reached in federal court, Minix has already been fully compensated for the injuries alleged against them in state court, so she is barred from seeking additional recovery. Just as with the sheriff, Minix brought the CWDS claim against the medical providers personally, but the medical malpractice claim was brought by her in her capacity of personal representative of Zick’s estate.

The judges also noted that although the federal court rendered judgment against the sheriff for the same injuries asserted against the medical providers in the medical malpractice claim, that judgment didn’t include a determination of the entirety of recoverable damages suffered by Zick. They remanded for further proceedings.
 

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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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