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Appellate court orders dismissal of widow’s tort claims

February 14, 2018

A widow who sued her husband’s employer for various breach and fraud allegations will not be able to continue her case after the Indiana Court of Appeals instructed the trial court to dismiss her claims on remand for failure to comply with the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

As an employee of the Elkhart Community School Corporation, David McGuire received a life insurance policy that listed his wife, Sandra Weaver, as his beneficiary. But that insurance was terminated in July 2012, when McGuire resigned from his position due to a brain cancer diagnosis.

McGuire died in March 2013, and Weaver sued the school corporation one year later, raising multiple breach and fraud claims and alleging an ECS employee had advised her that her husband should resign, rather than applying for long-term disability coverage. Had he applied for such coverage, McGuire’s life insurance coverage would have continued.

The school district moved to dismiss Weaver’s claims, arguing she had failed to serve the required notice under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. The Elkhart Circuit Court denied that motion, but granted ECS’ motion for summary judgment after finding Weaver’s claims were without merit as a matter of law.

Both parties appealed in Sandra S. Weaver v. Elkhart Community School Corporation, 20A03-1707-PL-1702, with Weaver arguing the trial court erred in entering summary judgment for ECS and the school arguing Weaver failed to comply with the ITCA. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the school district Wednesday, with Judge Cale Bradford writing Weaver’s claims sound in tort law, subjecting them to the Tort Claims Act.

Extensive case law has found that each of Weaver’s breach and fraud claims are torts, Bradford wrote, including her claims of breach of fiduciary responsibility, constructive fraud, interference with a contractual relationship and breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing.

“Having determined that Weaver’s claims sounded in tort, compliance with the notice provisions of the ITCA is a condition precedent to filing a tort suit against a qualifying political subdivision, which Weaver acknowledges did not occur in this case,” the judge wrote. “… Once a defendant raises the failure to comply with the ITCA, ‘the burden shifts to the plaintiff to prove compliance,’ … which Weaver does not even attempt to do.”

Thus, the appellate court reversed the denial of ECS’s motion to dismiss and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss Weaver’s claim.

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