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Opinion invites high court to reconsider decision

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The Indiana Court of Appeals invited the Indiana Supreme Court to revisit its ruling that held only children born alive fall under Indiana's Child Wrongful Death Statute. In a decision today, the majority of the appellate court panel felt bound by the high court's previous ruling.

At issue in Savannah Linley Ann Nelson Ramirez, An Individual Under the Child Wrongful Death Act, By Her Father, Stephan Ramirez v. James A. Wilson and Suzy-Q Trucking, LLC, No. 56A04-0806-CV-356, is whether a 9-month-old fetus should be considered a child under the statute. The mother of Savannah died in a car accident as a result of a car accident with James Wilson. The baby died in utero.

Ramirez filed a complaint under the statute alleging Wilson's negligence caused his daughter's death. The trial court granted Wilson's motion for partial summary judgment because the statute isn't applicable because Savannah wasn't born alive. The trial court ruled it was bound to grant the partial summary judgment by the Supreme Court's decision in Bolin v. Wingert, 764 N.E.2d 201 (Ind. 2002).

Ramirez argues on appeal that a full-term and viable fetus should be considered a child under the Child Wrongful Death Statute. But in Bolin, the high court ruled a 10-week-old fetus didn't constitute a child under the statute and that the legislature only intended for babies born alive to be covered.

Even though the circumstances between Bolin and the instance case are different, Judges L. Mark Bailey and Cale Bradford affirmed the grant of partial summary judgment, citing the precedent set by the Supreme Court in Bolin. However, the majority urged the high court to reconsider the scope of their earlier ruling based on the circumstances of this case that perhaps Savannah could have lived had there been a prompt Cesarean section performed, wrote Judge Bailey.

But Judge Patricia Riley dissented, writing that exceptions can be made to stare decisis, such as when the reasoning of a precedent is patently flawed.

"In my opinion, Bolin represents a fallacy and no longer has any contemporary relevance. Judicial honesty dictates corrective action," she wrote.

Citing two cases decided by the Supreme Court on the issue of unborn children's rights, Judge Riley wrote Indiana courts were focused on protecting the rights of the unborn until the Bolin decision came in 2002. The judge also cited Horn v. Hendrickson, 824 N.E.2d 290 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), in which the appellate court affirmed a mother couldn't file suit under the statute following the death of her six-month-old fetus after a car accident. That ruling also invited the high court to reconsider the Bolin opinion.

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  1. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  2. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  3. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  4. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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