High court to hear negligence, drunken driving cases in January arguments

The Indiana Supreme Court is scheduled to kick off the new year with two oral arguments on the schedule.

First, the justices at 9 a.m. Jan. 20 will consider granting transfer in the case of Carl Eugene McDonald v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-363.

Carl McDonald pleaded guilty to four felony charges and one misdemeanor charge and to being a habitual vehicular substance offender after he was caught driving drunk with his three young grandchildren in the car, ranging in age from 6 months to 6 years old.

McDonald, who has never held a driver’s license, challenged his felony convictions on constitutional and common law double jeopardy grounds, but the Court of Appeals of Indiana held that he could not raise a double jeopardy challenge to his multiple felony convictions on direct appeal.

However, the appellate court remanded so that his habitual vehicular substance offender enhancement could be attached to a specific felony. Specifically, it found that although the trial court erred in finding it could not suspend the HVSO enhancement, remand for resentencing was unnecessary because the record indicated the trial court would have imposed the same sentence had it known the enhancement was subject to suspension.

Also this month, justices will hear arguments in a cyclist’s negligence case against Michigan City in the case of  Laura M. Johnson v. City of Michigan City21S-CT-423.

Cyclist Laura Johnson was injured in May 2017 after striking a pothole on Duneland Beach Drive in Michigan City. The accident caused Johnson to fly off her bicycle and onto the road, leaving her unable to walk for six months and preventing her from passing physical tests to enlist in the National Guard as she had planned.

Michigan City officials had already determined the road needed to be resurfaced and had called for bids on a project to fix it, and the resurfacing project was completed in October 2017. But Johnson sued the city for negligence in 2018.

The LaPorte Superior Court granted summary judgment to the city on the grounds that the municipality was “immune from liability” under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. A divided Court of Appeals affirmed, with Judge Elaine Brown dissenting.

The high court granted transfer and rescheduled the oral argument from Nov. 2. It will hear the case at 9 a.m. Jan. 27.

The arguments can be streamed online. Masks will be required inside the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom during both arguments, and public seating will be limited. The livestream will also be available directly outside the courtroom.

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