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Justices reverse, reinstate wrongful death claim against nursing home

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The estate of a woman who died in a nursing home after an attack by another resident may pursue a wrongful death claim, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The family was initially told the woman suffered a fall but learned of the attack years later.
Justices reversed a trial court grant of summary judgment for the nursing home in Virginia E. Alldredge and Julia A. Luker, as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Venita Hargis v. The Good Samaritan Home, Inc., 82S01-1305-CT-363. Vernita Hargis lived at Good Samaritan Home in Evansville in November 2006 when a daughter received a call from a nurse saying that Hargis was ill after suffering a fall. Hargis was hospitalized later that day and died a few days later from the head injury she sustained.

A nurse told one of Hargis’ daughters almost three years later that Hargis had been attacked by another resident. In December 2010, the family sued, and the nursing home was granted summary judgment in Vanderburgh Superior Court on its argument that the complaint was time-barred, and that even if fraudulent concealment occurred, that could not extend the statutory two-year filing period.

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, giving plaintiffs an opportunity to prove common-law fraud, but holding that the Fraudulent Concealment statute could not apply because it was enacted after the Wrongful Death Act.

Though an issue of first impression, Justice Mark Massa wrote for the court, “Based upon our review of the historical and precedential records, we conclude that if a plaintiff makes the necessary factual showing, the Fraudulent Concealment Statute may apply to toll the Wrongful Death Act’s two-year filing period. In so holding, we break very little new ground."  

“Public policy considerations further bolster our conclusion. Were we to hold otherwise, we would be incentivizing fraud and thus thwarting the obvious purpose of the Fraudulent Concealment Statute,” Massa wrote. “And our decision today is consistent with that of courts in other jurisdictions, which have routinely found fraud may toll a statutory filing period even when it is a condition precedent to the existence of the claim rather than a statute of limitation.”

The opinion traces statutes, common law and caselaw dating back more than 200 years to find numerous examples tolling in similar Indiana cases. The opinion opens with the final opinion written by Indiana’s fifth justice, Stephen C. Stevens – Raymond v. Simonson, an 1835 ruling –  in which he laments “the labyrinth of difficulties, discriminations, technicalities and shades that have gathered around the statute of limitations.”

In a footnote, Massa notes a biography of Stevens says after he resigned from the bench he returned to private practice. “(T)hirty-three years later, after losing his fortune in a bad railroad investment, he died destitute in the Indiana Hospital for the Insane.”

 

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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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