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Justices disagree on whether jury instruction requires new trial

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The majority of Indiana justices ordered a new trial on liability for a school corporation being sued for wrongful death, finding one of the jury instructions could have misled the jury about a key issue regarding liability.

Maria Rosales sued LaPorte Community School Corp. after her son choked to death on food while eating lunch at an elementary school. The jury awarded her $5 million, which was entered as $500,000, the maximum amount then allowed under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. The school corporation appealed, and the focus of this opinion is Final Instruction 22. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial on this issue.

The majority found that the language of Instruction 22 reasonably could have been interpreted and applied by the jury in a way that substantially misstated the plaintiff’s burden of proof with respect to establishing negligence on the part of the school corporation.

“Such an interpretation effectively creates new duties not recognized by the common law in Indiana,” wrote Justice Brent Dickson in LaPorte Community School Corporation v. Maria Rosales, No. 46S04-1105-CT-284.
 
Because they are unable to conclude whether the jury’s verdict would have been the same if that instruction had unambiguously and correctly stated the law, the majority reversed and remanded for a new trial on the issue of liability only.

Justice Frank Sullivan dissented, pointing out that Instruction 11 laid out the required standard by explaining that negligence is failure to exercise reasonable or ordinary care. It’s well settled that jury instructions are to be considered as a whole and in reference to each other, he wrote.

“I see no basis for finding that the jury was misled here. Instruction 11 corrected any error in Instruction 22 such that the jury could not have been misled as to the law,” he wrote.

 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. 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)

  4. 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)

  5. 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.

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