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Opinions Dec. 13, 2012

December 13, 2012
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The following Indiana Supreme Court opinions were posted after IL deadline Wednesday.

Margaret Kosarko v. William A. Padula, Administrator of the Estate of Daniel L. Herndobler, Deceased
45S03-1206-CT-310
Civil tort. Reverses denial of motion for prejudgment interest following a jury verdict awarding Kosarko monetary damages. Holds the Tort Prejudgment Interest Statute abrogates and supplants the common law prejudgment interest rules in cases covered by the statute. Remands for a prejudgment interest determination consistent with this opinion.

Jacqueline Wisner, M.D. and The South Bend Clinic, L.L.P. v. Archie L. Laney
71S03-1201-CT-7
Civil tort. Affirms denial of defendants’ motion for a new trial and the decision to deny the discretionary award of prejudgment interest. The trial court determined that the conduct of counsel did not prevent the jury from rendering a fair and just verdict. The awarding of prejudgment interest is not mandatory and is left to the discretion of the trial court.

Hassan Alsheik v. Alice Guerrero, Individually and as Administratrix of the Estate of I.A., Deceased
45S04-1212-CT-675
Civil tort. Reverses decision to deny Guerrero prejudgment interest based upon a defective settlement letter as the letter did comply with Indiana Code 34-51-4-6. Remands with instructions to determine whether Guerrero should be entitled to prejudgment interest. Affirms the Court of Appeals opinions relating to the second autopsy, the expert witness and the admission of photographs.

Kathy Inman v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
41S01-1108-CT-515
Civil tort. Holds the Tort Prejudgment Interest Statute applies to underinsured motorist coverage disputes because they are properly considered “civil actions arising out of tortious conduct” as required by I.C. 34-51-4-1. Also holds that because prejudgment interest is a collateral litigation expense, it can be awarded in excess of an insured’s UIM policy limits. Affirms finding that Inman is not entitled to prejudgment interest because the trial court acted within its discretion when it denied her request for prejudgment interest.

Today’s opinions
7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Estate of Rudy Escobedo (deceased) (Raquel Hanic, Personal Representative of Estate) v. Officer Brian Martin, et al.
11-2426
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division, Judge Theresa L. Springmann.
Civil. Affirms jury verdict in favor of the defendants on the estate’s excessive force claim against the police and the city of Fort Wayne and grant of judgment as a matter of laws on qualified immunity grounds, as well as summary judgment in favor of officers Martin and Brown on the excessive force claim. Finds among other things, that the District Court did not improperly admit evidence unknown to the officers at the time they used force against Escobedo, that the court committed a harmless error when it prohibited the estate from introducing evidence at trial of Escobedo’s death for purposes of calculating damages, and the court did not err when it granted summary judgment in favor of officers Martin and Brown on the estate’s excessive force claim for shooting Escobedo.

Indiana Court of Appeals
Byram E. Dickes, Ruth E. Logar, Christopher S. Spiritoso, Gregory Spiritoso, Lindsey E. Dickes, Dickes Development Co., LLC, et al. v. Ronald D. Felger, and Shambaugh, Kast, Beck & Williams, LLP
02A03-1206-PL-302
Civil plenary. Affirms summary judgment in favor of Felger and the law firm on the plaintiffs’ legal malpractice claim. The claim is barred by the statute of limitations.

Scott J. Lunsford v. State of Indiana (NFP)
34A02-1206-CR-501
Criminal. Reverses time the trial court calculated as the time remaining on Lunsford’s sentence at the time his probation was revoked and remands with instructions to resentence him to 673 days.

Uriah S. Swelfer v. State of Indiana (NFP)
45A05-1205-CR-260
Criminal. Affirms sentence for two counts of Class C felony battery and one count of Class D felony criminal mischief.

Decarlos Connell v. State of Indiana (NFP)
48A05-1203-CR-141
Criminal. Affirms conviction of Class B misdemeanor visiting a common nuisance.

Kerry Wagner and Wagner Trucking, Inc. v. Rugged Enterprises, LLC (NFP)
26A05-1206-CC-333
Civil collection. Affirms denial of relief from default judgment rendered in favor of Rugged Enterprises in its action against Wagner and Wagner Trucking for repayment of money mistakenly paid to Wagner Trucking by Rugged, which Wagner refused to refund.

Joseph Majors v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1205-CR-433
Criminal. Affirms convictions of attempted murder and carrying a handgun without a license. Reverses sentencing enhancement and orders it vacated, but affirms 45-year aggregate sentence imposed.

Roseann Kwak v. Kimberly Overmyer and Marshall-Starke Development Center, Inc., West Bend Mutual Ins. Company (NFP)
75A03-1203-CT-104
Civil tort. Affirms order denying Kwak’s motion to correct error from the trial court order granting summary judgment to West Bend Mutual, the garnishee-defendant, in proceedings supplement initiated by Kwak.

Daniel A. Sage v. State of Indiana (NFP)
20A03-1206-PC-266
Post conviction. Affirms denial of post-conviction relief.

Tyler P. Hogue v. State of Indiana (NFP)
29A02-1203-CR-217
Criminal. Affirms sentence after Hogue admitted to violating his probation.

Jaconiah Fields v. State of Indiana (NFP)
89A01-1205-PC-232
Post conviction. Affirms denial of petition for post-conviction relief.

Melissa L. Freyberger v. Duane L. Freyberger (NFP)
71A03-1206-MI-252
Miscellaneous. Dismisses Melissa Freyberger’s appeal of the modification of Duane Freyberger’s parenting time rights, allowing him to take the children on a six-week vacation in Europe. Denies her request for appellate attorney fees.
 

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  2. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

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  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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