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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 enrolled America's 1st tax-free Health Savings Account (HSA) so you can trust me. I bet 1/3 of my clients were lawyers because they love tax-free deposits, growth and withdrawals or total tax freedom. Most of the time (always) these clients are uninformed about insurance law. Employer-based health insurance is simple if you read the policy. It says, Employers (lawyers) and employees who are working 30-hours-per-week are ELIGIBLE for insurance. Then I show the lawyer the TERMINATION clause which states: When you are no longer ELIGIBLE! Then I ask a closing question (sales term) to the lawyer which is, "If you have a stroke or cancer and become too sick to work can you keep your health insurance?" If the lawyer had dependent children they needed a "Dependent Conversion Privilege" in case their child got sick or hurt which the lawyers never had. Lawyers are pretty easy sales. Save premium, eliminate taxes and build wealth!

  2. Ok, so cheap laughs made about the Christian Right. hardiharhar ... All kidding aside, it is Mohammad's followers who you should be seeking divine protection from. Allahu Akbar But progressives are in denial about that, even as Europe crumbles.

  3. Father's rights? What about a mothers rights? A child's rights? Taking a child from the custody of the mother for political reasons! A miscarriage of justice! What about the welfare of the child? Has anyone considered parent alienation, the father can't erase the mother from the child's life. This child loves the mother and the home in Wisconsin, friends, school and family. It is apparent the father hates his ex-wife more than he loves his child! I hope there will be a Guardian Ad Litem, who will spend time with and get to know the child, BEFORE being brainwashed by the father. This is not just a child! A little person with rights and real needs, a stable home and a parent that cares enough to let this child at least finish the school year, where she is happy and comfortable! Where is the justice?

  4. "The commission will review applications and interview qualified candidates in March and April." Riiiiiight. Would that be the same vaulted process that brought us this result done by "qualified candidates"? http://www.theindianalawyer.com/justices-deny-transfer-to-child-custody-case/PARAMS/article/42774 Perhaps a lottery system more like the draft would be better? And let us not limit it to Indiana attorneys so as to give the untainted a fighting chance?

  5. Steal a little, and they put you in jail. Steal a lot, and they make you king. Bob Dylan ala Samuel Johnson. I had a very similar experience trying to hold due process trampling bureaucrats responsible under the law. Consider this quote and commentary:"'When the president does it, that means it is not illegal,' [Richard] Nixon told his interviewer. Those words were largely seen by the American public -- which continued to hold the ex-president in low esteem -- as a symbol of his unbowed arrogance. Most citizens still wanted to believe that no American citizen, not even the president, is above the law." BWHaahaaahaaa!!!! http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/When-the-president-does-it-that-means-it-is-not-illegal.html

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