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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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