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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. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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