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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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  3. 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.

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