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Supreme Court grants 3 transfers

June 17, 2009

The Indiana Supreme Court granted three transfers Tuesday, including a case regarding the state's "non-suspension rule," Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-2(b)(1).

In Julie A. Gardiner v. State of Indiana, No. 08A02-0810-CR-874, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined in a case of first impression that the state's "non-suspension rule" in Indiana Code depends on the status of the prior criminal conviction at the time of sentencing for a subsequent conviction. Because Julie Gardiner's prior unrelated Class D felony conviction wasn't reduced to a Class A misdemeanor at the time she was sentenced for a later drug conviction, her 20-year sentence stands.

The majority ruled if the Hamilton County trial court had immediately reduced Gardiner's prior felony to the misdemeanor, the Carroll Circuit Court would have had the discretion to order a suspended sentence. Since the Hamilton trial court postponed the reduction, Gardiner still had the Class D felony conviction on her record when she was convicted and sentenced for the Class A felony dealing in methamphetamine.

The majority noted it was frustrated by a sentencing scheme that illogically limits a judge's discretion and invited the legislature to consider amending the statutes to provide more judicial discretion.

Judge Elaine Brown dissented on the grounds she wouldn't give the non-suspension rule such a strict interpretation as to tie the trial court's hands in suspending a minimum sentence when circumstances warrant a modification.

In Jimmie Smith v. Champion Trucking Co., Inc. No. 93A02-0808-EX-701, the Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of Jimmie Smith's application for adjustment of claim with the Indiana Workers' Compensation Board. Smith should be allowed to proceed with his workers' compensation claim that was pending at the time of his settlement with the driver who struck his truck while he was working, the court ruled.

"Thus, Smith correctly observes that there may be some potential, in furtherance of the humane purposes of the Act, for some supplemental payment from an employer after the injured employee has recovered from a third-party tortfeasor an amount less than the 'apparent worker's compensation benefits' before the worker's compensation claim was resolved," wrote the court.

The high court also granted transfer to Eric P. Sibbing v. Amanda N. Cave, individually and as the mother and guardian of Mercy M. Cave, minor, No. 49A02-0802-CV-165.The appellate court ruled the trial court didn't err in allowing into evidence Cave's testimony about medical tests and the cause of her pain. Cave was injured in a car accident when Eric Sibbing's car slammed into the back of hers. Cave filed a negligence suit against Sibbing, who admitted fault.

The judges disagreed about whether the court erred in granting Cave's motion to strike portions of Sibbing's expert medical witness's testimony.

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