This will be my final annual update of Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana’s participation in amicus cases. I have decided after over 10 years heading up the Amicus Committee, it is time for me to step aside. Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, Don Kite will assume the chair. I will stay on the committee for another year to help Don with the transition.
In 2011, DTCI has participated as amicus in several significant legal issues affecting the defense bar. It was involved in a certified question concerning the crash worthiness doctrine and prepared a brief concerning whether failure to maintain medical records constitutes spoliation. Finally, the Amicus Committee was involved in one of the cases deciding whether plaintiffs in wrongful death cases were entitled to attorney fees. The Amicus Committee also welcomed a new member, Edward Harney of Hume Smith Geddes Green & Simmons.
Below are the 2011 cases:
Cases decided at the Indiana Supreme Court
• Nicholas Green v. Ford Motor Co., 942 N.E.2d 791 (Ind. 2011), Certified Question from S.D. Ind. The court decided that in a crash worthiness case alleging enhanced injuries under the Indiana Product Liability Act, the jury can apportion fault to the person suffering physical harm when the alleged fault relates to the cause of the underlying accident. Ross Rudolph of Rudolph Fine Porter & Johnson and James Godbold of Kightlinger & Gray’s Evansville office prepared the amicus brief.
• Ashby and O’Brien v. Davidson, 949 N.E.2d 301 (Ind. 2011). The court held a claims-made policy of insurance requires notice by an insured prior to the expiration of the policy period. However, the court held there was a material issue of fact on plaintiff’s estoppel claim (DTCI did not participate in the estoppel claim). Don Kite of Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan wrote the amicus brief.
• Howard Regional Health Systems v. Gordon, 952 N.E.2d 182 (Ind. 2011). The court held there is no spoliation cause of action for failing to comply with a statute concerning maintenance of health care records against a health care provider who fails to maintain medical records. The amicus brief was written by Tom Bodkin of Bamberger Foreman Oswald & Hahn.
• Hematology-Oncology of Indiana, P.C. v. Fruits, 950 N.E.2d 295 (Ind. 2011). The court held plaintiffs are entitled to an award of attorney fees and expenses pursuant to the Adult Wrongful Death Act. Robert Parker prepared the DTCI amicus brief.
Cases pending at Indiana Court of Appeals
• Santelli v. Rahmatullah and Super 8 Motel, No. 49D04-0704-CT-14720. The issue is whether in a premises liability case where a person was murdered, the premises owner can name the criminal assailant as a nonparty. Lucy Dollens of Frost Brown Todd wrote the amicus brief.
I would like to thank all the individuals and firms that supplied briefs in the above matters. This work is time consuming and challenging. The work of the brief writers is appreciated by everyone at DTCI.
As usual, I speak for the DTCI board in expressing my thanks to the members of Amicus Committee: Michele Bryant (Bamberger Foreman Oswald & Hahn); Lucy Dollens; Michael Dugan (Dugan & Voland); Daniel Glavin (O’Neill McFadden & Willett); Phil Kalamaros (Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros); Don Kite Sr.; Crystal Rowe (Kightlinger & Gray) and Edward Harney. I speak for the entire committee when I thank the DTCI board of directors and its members for their continued support of the Amicus Committee.
Finally, on a personal note, my time as Amicus chair has been one of the most professionally fulfilling experiences in my career. The combination of the intellectual debates on the committee, the policy discussions with the board and the work with the brief writers will never be duplicated. I hope Don has as great an experience as I have had over the last 10 years.•
James D. Johnson is a partner in the litigation department at Rudolph Fine Porter & Johnson in Evansville. Johnson will be vice president of DTCI beginning Jan. 1, 2012. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.