ILNews

Law doesn't contain presumption on negligence

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrint

The Indiana Court of Appeals found a trial court committed a reversible error when it instructed a jury that Indiana law has a rebuttable presumption that children ages 7 through 14 can't be found contributorily negligent. The ruling came in a suit against a school for the death of a student.

Ronna Timberman and John Pipes II sued Clay City Consolidated School Corporation after their 13-year-old son Kodi died during a basketball practice. Days earlier, Kodi blacked out and fell at a practice and Timberman wanted Kodi to see a doctor before participating in strenuous activities at practice. The day he fainted, Kodi hadn't eaten much, so his family and coaches made sure he ate before participating at practice. Two days later, Kodi attended basketball practice and collapsed during a running drill. His death was attributed to ventricular fibrillation.

His parents sued under Indiana's Child Wrongful Death Statute and received $300,000 following an order on remittitur from the court reducing their damages.

In Clay City Consolidated School Corp.v. Ronna Timberman and John Pipes II, No. 11A04-0802-CV-96, Clay City appealed the denial of its motion to correct error and the order on remittitur. Clay City contends the trial court abused its discretion in its jury instruction No. 20, which said that a 13-year-old boy is presumed to be incapable of contributory negligence.

Noting that the trial court "reopened the proverbial can of worms" with this issue, the appellate court examined Indiana caselaw to conclude that state law doesn't conclusively contain a presumption either in favor or against 7- to 14-year-olds with respect to whether they can be found liable for negligent acts, wrote Judge Patricia Riley. The trial court misstated Indiana law when it informed the jury that state law contains a rebuttable presumption that children between the ages of 7 and 14 can't be found contributorily negligent.

Indiana law focuses on when a child in that age range can be held liable for negligence for their acts, which is primarily determined by inquiry into whether the child exercised the level of care that should be expected of a child of like age, knowledge, judgment, and experience, the judge wrote. There is no pattern jury instruction on a presumption for this age group, nor has the Indiana Supreme Court mentioned whether an instruction should be given regarding any presumption.

"Thus, we conclude that any jury instruction on the contributory negligence of a child between the age of seven and fourteen should focus on the standard of care for children of that age group-not on any presumption either in favor of or against finding them liable for their acts," Judge Riley wrote.

As a result, the appellate court reversed the trial court and remanded for a new trial because it can't say the verdict would have been the same despite the erroneous instruction.

The Court of Appeals also addressed other issues that may come up in the new trial regarding other jury instructions given by the trial court.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

ADVERTISEMENT