Justices to hear compulsive gambling case

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2009
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The Indiana Supreme Court will hear arguments in three cases Thursday, including a suit in which a woman claims a casino took advantage of her gambling addiction.

Arguments begin at 9 a.m. in Caesars Riverboat Casino LLC v. Genevieve Kephart, No. 31S01-0909-CV-303. Caesars originally filed a suit against Genevieve Kephart after she failed to repay a gambling debt. The casino sought repayment, treble damages, and attorney fees. But Kephart counterclaimed, arguing the casino unjustly enriched itself because it knew she had a pathological gambling problem.

The trial court denied Caesars' motion to dismiss her counterclaim and on interlocutory appeal, a split Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in the matter of first impression. The appellate court held Kephart didn't have a private cause of action against the casino under the circumstances of the case, and that casinos don't have a common law duty to protect compulsive gamblers from themselves.

In his dissent, Judge Terry Crone believed a common law duty should be imposed because of the casino's conduct in luring Kephart to the casino with freebies, and because it knew of her condition, it could have excluded her from any marketing efforts.

At 9:45 a.m., the justices will hear Ford Motor Co. and TRW Vehicle Safety Systems, Inc. v. Sally J. Moore, No. 73S05-0909-CV-404, a suit alleging product liability negligence against Ford Motor Co. and TRW Vehicle Safety Systems. The jury returned a verdict assigning fault among Daniel Moore, Ford, TRW, and nonparty Goodyear, which resulted in damage judgments against Ford and TRW. Sally Moore brought the suit following the death of Daniel, who was ejected from his Ford Explorer after his car blew a tire, even though he was wearing a properly fastened seatbelt made by TRW.

The appellate court reversed the jury verdict because the estate didn't present sufficient evidence to establish its claim. Judge Patricia Riley dissented, believing the estate had sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could have concluded a safer and feasible alternative to the conventional seatbelt was available that would have cost-effectively improved aggregate safety in all types of crashes.

Finally, at 10:30 a.m. the high court will hear Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund v. Gary Patrick, No. 49S02-0909-CV-402. The trial court entered a judgment allowing Gary Patrick, the father of a patient who died as a result of medical malpractice, to collect from the Patient's Compensation Fund for damages under the Adult Wrongful Death Statute, and for damages attributable to his own claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress under the "bystander rule."

The Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling Patrick's asserting for damages as a bystander was pursuant to Groves v. Taylor, 729 N.E.2d 569 (Ind. 2000), and because he dealt with the aftermath of the malpractice, he was able to bring an independent claim for damages for emotional distress in conjunction with his claim under the Adult Wrongful Death Statute.

The oral arguments will be webcast live and a link will be available two minutes prior to the start time of an argument. The links may be accessed by going to, and clicking on the case name on the right side of the page under "Upcoming live webcasts."

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