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Justices divided on proper sanction for attorney actions

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The majority of Indiana Supreme Court justices found the trial court was within its discretion to dismiss a personal injury action because of the plaintiff’s attorney’s actions.

In Rickey D. Whitaker v. Travis M. Becker, No. 02S03-1201-CT-27, the justices granted transfer to the Allen County case, but came to different conclusions as to how the actions of Rickey Whitaker’s attorney should be handled. Whitaker filed a personal injury lawsuit against Travis Becker following a car accident. Whitaker’s attorney ignored repeated requests to provide information about his client’s medical treatment, and when he did respond, the attorney gave false and misleading information. Whitaker claimed he was waiting to have back surgery because he didn’t have any money to pay for the surgery when at the time of the sworn response, he already had the surgery scheduled.

Becker’s attorney didn’t find out about the surgery until Whitaker’s attorney sent a letter – the day the surgery happened. Becker’s counsel argued that the surgery seriously undermined the value of a post-operative examination in helping to establish whether the accident or Whitaker’s preexisting degenerative disc disease caused his bulging disc condition because the surgery would have removed part of the disc.

The Allen Circuit Court granted Becker’s attorney’s request for dismissal of the case. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, reinstating the case and ordering Whitaker pay $625 of Becker’s attorney fees. Justice Frank Sullivan agreed with the COA’s decision, but three of the justices agreed that the trial court’s dismissal was the appropriate action.

“We think an experienced trial judge could easily conclude that a surgery to remove a disc and fuse two vertebrae together would generate evidentiary problems for a defendant trying to prove that the plaintiff’s need for surgery really resulted from a preexisting condition — a degenerative disc disease,” wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard for the majority.

Justice Robert Rucker also dissented without opinion.

 

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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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