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Journey’s Account Statute does not save woman’s complaint against DOC

May 12, 2015

A transgendered inmate of the Department of Correction lost before the Court of Appeals in a case seeking personal injury damages from the DOC. The inmate’s instant complaint is time-barred and not saved by the Journey’s Account Statute, the COA held.

Christa Allen was a post-surgery transgender prisoner incarcerated in the Rockville Correctional Facility in 2007. While incarcerated, the DOC did not allow her to use a vaginal stent or a substitute device, which caused atrophy, injury and ruination of her previous surgery.

She sued the DOC in June 2008 seeking personal injury damages. The case was dismissed because she did not file a timely notice of tort claim, but a medical malpractice claim against the prison physicians is still alive.

In August 2011, Allen filed another personal injury action against the DOC. She claimed the original action was erroneously dismissed and that the Journey’s Account Statute would allow her current complaint to survive, even though the two-year personal injury statute of limitations had long since expired.

The trial court granted the DOC’s motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Ind. Trial Rule 12(C), which asserted her complaint for damages was time-barred and the JAS was inapplicable to save the claim.

For the JAS to apply, the decision ending the previous suit must not have been a decision on the merits. Here, the trial court dismissed Allen’s original complaint on the grounds she failed to give proper tort claim notice to the DOC under the Indiana Tort Claim Act, which is an adjudication on the merits. Even if that dismissal was erroneous, as Allen alleges, such a decision was still one on the merits, so the JAS is not available to save her current claim, the COA held.

The case is Christa Allen v. State of Indiana, Indiana Department of Correction, 61A01-1412-PL-542.

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