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Statement in tort claim does not prevent woman from trying to recover for injuries

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Even though a woman originally stated she did not suffer any injuries after her vehicle was rear ended by a police car, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled she can file a subsequent complaint against the municipality and the police department for personal injuries.

In City of Indianapolis v. Rachael Buschman, 49S02-1201-CT-598, the Supreme Court examined the amended statute pertaining to the Indiana Tort Claims Act and concluded the Legislature intentionally removed any requirement pertaining to specifying personal injuries. It affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in Buschman’s favor and remanded for further proceedings.

“It may well be true, as the City argues, that ‘public and legislative policy support requiring notice to political subdivision of the nature of the injury to allow them to investigate and prepare defenses,’ …and that Buschman could have amended her claim once she discovered her injuries,” Justice Mark Massa wrote for the court. “The statute, however, requires neither notice ‘of the nature of the injury’ nor an amended notice. If the legislature wishes to impose either or both of these requirements, it is free to do so. We, however, are not.”

Rachael Buschman was hit by an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officer in July 2008. In submitting a tort claim notice to the city of Indianapolis, she included a statement that she had not sustained any injuries as a result of the automobile accident.

However, in July 2010, Buschman and her husband filed a complaint against the city and IMPD alleging she had suffered personal injuries because of the officer’s negligence.

The trial court granted the Buschmans’ motion for summary judgment.

On appeal, the city argued Buschman’s original tort claim did not comply with the requirement of the Indiana Tort Claims Act because it noted she has suffered no injuries.

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed. It reversed the trial court, finding Buschman’s notice did not substantially comply with the requirements of the ITCA.

However, the Supreme Court found Buschman complied with the requirements outlined in Collier V. Prater, 544 N.E.2nd 497, 498 (Ind. 1989): The notice was filed timely, it informed the city that she intended to pursue a claim and it contained details about the accident.

“Although the notice also stated ‘No injuries,’ we note the statute no longer requires any statement regarding injuries, and we do not believe the General Assembly intended to penalize claimants for including information – even information that is ultimately found to be inaccurate – beyond what the statute requires,” Massa wrote.


 

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  1. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

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