Indiana justices begin remote oral arguments on Thursday

Indiana Supreme Court justices will start hearing oral arguments through videoconferencing later this week. Their first case deals with a medical malpractice dispute involving an unwilling prospective juror who was thought to be evading jury duty.

In the case of Tammi Clark, as personal representative of the estate of Kandace Pyles, deceased, v. Samer Mattar, M.D.19A-CT-380, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of Tammi Clark’s motion to strike a potential juror in her wrongful death case who had expressed an unwillingness to decide the question of damages.

Clark, the personal representative of Kandace Pyles’ estate, filed a wrongful death suit against Dr. Samer Mattar seeking non-economic damages. However, a member of the venire informed Clark’s counsel that he was unwilling to award non-economic damages to the estate if the jury found malpractice.

The estate moved to strike the prospective juror for cause, but the Marion Superior Court denied the motion, indicating it believed the juror was attempting to avoid jury service. Clark then used a peremptory challenge to strike the individual, and the jury later returned a verdict in favor of Mattar.

An appellate panel reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial court erred by denying the estate’s motion to strike the prospective juror for cause.

Justices granted a petition to transfer and assumed jurisdiction over the case, which is scheduled for oral argument at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Earlier this month, the high court announced it would conduct oral arguments through videoconferencing rather than in-person. The court took the historic step of conducting its proceedings remotely in order to maintain social distancing during the public health emergency caused by COVID-19.

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