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Law doesn't contain presumption on negligence

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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.

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  1. It is amazing how selectively courts can read cases and how two very similar factpatterns can result in quite different renderings. I cited this very same argument in Brown v. Bowman, lost. I guess it is panel, panel, panel when one is on appeal. Sad thing is, I had Sykes. Same argument, she went the opposite. Her Rooker-Feldman jurisprudence is now decidedly unintelligible.

  2. November, 2014, I was charged with OWI/Endangering a person. I was not given a Breathalyzer test and the arresting officer did not believe that alcohol was in any way involved. I was self-overmedicated with prescription medications. I was taken to local hospital for blood draw to be sent to State Tox Lab. My attorney gave me a cookie-cutter plea which amounts to an ALCOHOL-related charge. Totally unacceptable!! HOW can I get my TOX report from the state lab???

  3. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  4. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  5. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

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