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State not allowed to intervene in Weinberger case

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Finding the law does not allow the state to become a party to otherwise private litigation at any stage of the proceedings, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed its prior order granting the state’s motion to intervene in a settlement reached between former doctor Mark Weinberger and the estate of a patient.

In Mark S. Weinberger, M.D. v. Estate of Phyllis R. Barnes, Deceased, By Peggy Hood as Personal Representative, Joe Clinkenbeard, P.A., et al., 45A04-1107-CT-369, Phyllis Barnes filed a medical malpractice complaint against the nose, throat and ear doctor after discovering he performed an unnecessary surgery on her sinuses. After getting a second opinion, she learned she had advanced cancer, which could have been discovered at the time she saw Weinberger. After her death, her estate took over her claim.

A jury awarded $3 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages, which was later reduced to $1.25 million in compensatory damages and $9 million in punitive damages. The parties then entered into a settlement agreement in which Weinberger agreed to pay $1.72 million and waived the estate’s interest in the punitive damages award.

The state sought to intervene because it would be entitled to 75 percent – $6.75 million – of the punitive damages award under state law.

The Court of Appeals concluded that I.C. 34-51-3-6 does not give the state power to intervene in otherwise private litigation, ostensibly to protect its interest in a punitive damage award. Because the only proper parties to the appeal have amicably resolved their dispute, the COA dismissed as there is nothing left for the judges to decide. Upon petition by the parties, the trial court shall vacate the damages judgment against Weinberger.

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  • Politics before practicality
    Nice job, AG's office. Now you have case law shutting you out of the settlement process entirely. All because you would not reasonably settle the Weinberger case. This is what happens when you put politics ahead of practicality. After all, it's not like Weinberger can pay you from the penitentiary. And, insurance does not cover punitive damages. What a silly position to have taken that resulted in this decision that you're sure not to like.

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  1. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

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  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

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