Promise to pay for broken nose breathes life into estoppel claim

A young woman who suffered a broken nose trying to help law enforcement can have her estoppel claim move forward even though she did not file a timely notice under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

Kyleigh Nolan, 19, filed a lawsuit against the Clarksville Police Department and the Town of Clarksville after the two entities failed to pay her medical expenses. She had volunteered to play a hostage during a training exercise for the local police department and broke her nose after she collided with officers.

Nolan and her mother were assured on different occasions by Police Chief Mark Palmer that the town would cover her medical bills related to the accident. However, neither the department nor the municipality ever paid any of Nolan’s medical expenses.

In early 2014, Nolan filed a lawsuit against the department and the town. The town countered with a motion for summary judgment arguing Nolan had not provided the pre-suit notice of her claim within 180 days of the incident as required by the ITCA.

Clark Circuit Court Special Judge Susan Orth granted summary judgment in favor of Clarksville.

On appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld part of the trial court’s dismissal of Nolan’s lawsuit on the grounds that she did not provide the municipality with required 180-day notice that she was going to sue.

But the appellate court found there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the town should be estopped from asserting her non-compliance as a defense. It remanded Kyleigh Nolan v. Clarksville Police Department and Town of Clarksville, Indiana, 10A04-1510-CT-1824, finding Nolan is entitled to present her estoppel claim to a jury at trial.

In particular, the Court of Appeals noted the police told Nolan her medical expenses would be covered.  Nolan neither knew nor had any way of discovering that the municipality was not going to pay and, instead, relied on Palmer’s assurances to her detriment.

Clarksville argued that Nolan cannot satisfy the detrimental-reliance prongs because there is no evidence that she did not file the tort-claim notices because of what Palmer said.

The COA was not convinced. It pointed out that an ITCA plaintiff claiming estoppel does not need to show she was aware of the notice requirement and would have complied but the conduct of another stopped her from doing so. Indeed, Nolan only has to show that she detrimentally relied upon Chief Palmer’s statements.

“The evidence that Nolan and her mother attempted to work with Chief Palmer and to follow his instructions regarding the submission of medical bills, rather than filing a notice of a claim, is sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact on the detrimental-reliance elements,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the court.



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