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Justices take guest statute case

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The Indiana Supreme Court has accepted a case that deals with whether a tort claim filed by a son against his father should be precluded by the Indiana Guest Statute. The case prompted each judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals panel that heard the case to author an opinion.

In the memorandum decision in Robert L. Clark, Jr. and Debra Clark v. Robert L. Clark, Sr., No. 01S02-1112-CT-690, Robert Clark Jr. and his wife, Debra, alleged negligence and loss of consortium against Robert Clark Sr. following an accident that severely injured Clark Jr.’s leg. The son had traveled with his father to a friend’s home to fill jugs with drinking water. When Clark Jr. tried to help his father parallel park, Clark Sr. hit the gas pedal instead of the break, hitting his son.

Clark Sr. asserted the Indiana Guest Statute as an affirmative defense, and the trial court granted his motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the majority found that the statute – which defines when someone responsible for operating a motor vehicle is not liable for a loss or damage arising from injuries or death to certain people, including one’s child – was inapplicable in the case and does not preclude the couple’s suit against Clark Sr.

Clark Jr. never claimed he was “in or upon” his father’s vehicle or “being transported” at the time he was injured. Chief Judge Margret Robb dissented, finding the better reading of Clark Sr.’s answers to requests for admissions is that they used “in” and “upon” in a generic and factual sense and not a legal sense.

“I read Senior as admitting that Junior was not literally inside or on top of the Chevrolet at the moment of impact, yet reserving the issue of whether he was “in or upon” the vehicle for purposes of applying the Guest Statute,” she wrote.

Judge Nancy Vaidik concurred with Judge Melissa May’s holding, but wrote separately because she believed summary judgment was improper due to C.M.L. ex rel. Brabant v. Republic Services Inc., 800 N.E.2d 200 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003), which also dealt with the Indiana Guest Statute.
 

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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