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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. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  2. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  3. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

  4. Well, I agree with you that the people need to wake up and see what our judges and politicians have done to our rights and freedoms. This DNA loophole in the statute of limitations is clearly unconstitutional. Why should dna evidence be treated different than video tape evidence for example. So if you commit a crime and they catch you on tape or if you confess or leave prints behind: they only have five years to bring their case. However, if dna identifies someone they can still bring a case even fifty-years later. where is the common sense and reason. Members of congress are corrupt fools. They should all be kicked out of office and replaced by people who respect the constitution.

  5. If the AG could pick and choose which state statutes he defended from Constitutional challenge, wouldn't that make him more powerful than the Guv and General Assembly? In other words, the AG should have no choice in defending laws. He should defend all of them. If its a bad law, blame the General Assembly who presumably passed it with a majority (not the government lawyer). Also, why has there been no write up on the actual legislators who passed the law defining marriage? For all the fuss Democrats have made, it would be interesting to know if some Democrats voted in favor of it (or if some Republican's voted against it). Have a nice day.

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