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Wrongful death statute allows for attorney fees, other costs

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Compensation for attorney fees and other costs can be awarded under the Adult Wrongful Death Statute, ruled a Court of Appeals panel today.

In the case relying on the interpretation of the Adult Wrongful Death Statute, the appellate court affirmed the Marion Superior Court ruling in Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund v. Beverly S. Brown, et al., No. 49A02-1001-CT-80.

Beverly S. Brown, as executor of the estate of her sister, Barbara J. Frieden, had settled a medical malpractice claim for the statutory limit after Frieden died of a heart attack. She then petitioned the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund for additional compensation. The trial court awarded $278,377.55, which included compensation for attorney fees, litigation costs, estate administration costs, and loss of services to their parents. The fund appealed, arguing that those damages were not authorized under the Adult Wrongful Death Statute.

Judge Terry Crone wrote the panel agrees with Hematology-Oncology of Indiana, P.C. v. Fruits, 2010 WL 3250175 at *2-4 (Ind. Ct. App. Aug. 18, 2010), and Judge Patricia Riley’s dissent in McCabe v. Comm’r, Ind. Dep’t of Ins., 930 N.E.2d 1202 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), trans. sought. In that case, she noted that Butler v. Ind. Dep’t of Ins., 904 N.E.2d 198, 202 (Ind. 2009), reiterated that the Adult Wrongful Death Statute does allow for the recovery of damages other than those spelled out in subsections (c)(3)(A) and (c)(3)(B).

“The AWDS must be narrowly construed, but the legislature used open-ended language to describe the damages available under the statute. Decisions discussing the history and purpose of wrongful death actions, such as Kuba, have indicated that the damages should be compensatory in nature. Therefore, treble and punitive damages have been disallowed. Durham, 745 N.E.2d at 761; Kuba, 508 N.E.2d at 2,” Judge Crone wrote. “By contrast, attorney fees, probate administration costs, and litigation costs are compensatory damages that remedy actual pecuniary losses. Therefore, we find no compelling reason why these damages should not be allowed.”

The fund had argued that pecuniary damages are “categorically unavailable” under the AWDS.

“We cannot agree. Loss of services, when proved, would constitute a pecuniary loss of the type contemplated by the AWDS. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the trial court,” Judge Crone wrote.

 

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  1. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

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