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Opinions Sept. 25, 2013

September 25, 2013
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Indiana Court of Appeals
Steven Harper and Rose Harper as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Steven Harper, Deceased v. Gerry Hippensteel, M.D.
42A04-1302-MI-95
Miscellaneous/medical malpractice. Affirms trial court grant of summary judgment in favor of Dr. Gerry Hippensteel, concluding that he did not owe a duty to Steven Harper Jr. on the basis of a Collaborative Practice Agreement the doctor signed with a nurse practitioner who provided care. Because Hippensteel took no affirmative action with regard to Harper, he is entitled to summary judgment because no doctor-patient relationship existed or was imposed by the agreement.

Robert Fechtman, as Guardian of the Estate of Roberto Hernandez v. United States Steel Corporation, Zurich North America
45A04-1209-CT-474
Civil tort. Affirms jury findings in awarding damages of $4.65 million to the estate of Hernandez, who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning as a contractor working at the U.S. Steel plant in Gary, and its determination that U.S. Steel was 15 percent at fault, resulting in a judgment of $698,668 against U.S. Steel. Rejects Zurich North America’s cross-claim as moot. The trial court did not err in refusing to provide Hernandez’s tendered jury instruction regarding strict liability for an abnormally dangerous activity.

In the Matter of the Involuntary Term. of the Parent-Child Rel. of D.P., Minor Child, and her Father, D.P.; D.P. v. Indiana Dept. of Child Services and Child Advocates, Inc.

49A02-1303-JT-245
Juvenile. Reverses termination of parental rights, finding that Father D.P’s due process rights were violated when a judge ruled on findings of fact prepared by a new magistrate who prepared findings based on the results of a hearing conducted by a magistrate who resigned. Remands to the juvenile court for a new evidentiary hearing.

In Re The Marriage of: David L. Fendley v. Misty L. Converse f/k/a Misty L. Fendley (NFP)
20A05-1212-DR-662
Domestic relation. Reverses former husband David Fendley’s motion to set aside a judgment against him for $128,104, holding that a prior agreement between him and ex-wife Misty Converse abated his obligation in 1994.

Brian L. Marchand v. State of Indiana (NFP)
87A01-1209-CR-431
Criminal. Affirms on interlocutory appeal two orders denying Brian Marchand’s motions for discharge under Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C).

Brian McGill v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1211-CR-934
Criminal. Affirms conviction of Class B felony aggravated battery and finding of habitual offender.

Indiana Surpeme Court and Indiana Tax Court issued no opinions by IL deadline. U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued no Indiana opinions by IL deadline.
 

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  2. 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.

  3. 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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