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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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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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