Justices to hear oral arguments in public record, sexual assault and negligence disputes

Indiana Supreme Court justices will hear several arguments on appeal next week, including a case in which an Indianapolis TV station lost its public records dispute against Hamilton Southeastern Schools.

Long-time television station WTHR-TV in Indianapolis sought records and information related to the discipline of Rick Wimmer, a physical education teacher and head football coach at Fishers High School.

Wimmer had been placed on administrative leave by the school and when verbally asked by WTHR reporter Bob Segall the name of the employee, the grounds for and dates of the suspension, the date of the underlying incident, and confirmation of whether the teacher involved was the same teacher WTHR had previously reported on, the school declined.

The TV station sued, alleging the school district’s responses were inadequate and failed to comply with Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act. The Hamilton Circuit Court entered judgment for the school district and the appellate court affirmed.

Arguments before the high court in WTHR-TV v. Hamilton Southeastern School District, 21S-MI-00345  are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sept. 16.

Justices also agreed to hear Clarence Lowe v. Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, 21S-CT-295. In that case, Clarence Lowe filed a complaint against his employer Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District – which operates the South Shore Line between Chicago and South Bend – under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, alleging he sustained injuries on the job and is entitled to compensation.

After the Porter Superior Court entered summary judgment for NICTD, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed on grounds that NICTD is a political subdivision for purposes of the Indiana Tort Claims Act. It’s ruling, published as a memorandum decision, also held that because Lowe failed to serve a Notice of Tort Claim within 180 days after his alleged loss, his claims were barred.

Arguments in the case are scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sept. 16.

Finally, the justices will listen to arguments in K.G., by her Parent and Next Friend, Melody Ruch, and Melody Ruch, Individually v. Morgan Smith, New Augusta North Public Academy, and Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, 20A-CT-01802.

Mother Melody Ruch sued New Augusta North Public Academy after an instructional assistant sexually assaulted her daughter, who has severe mental and physical disabilities, at the school.

Ruch sued the instructional assistant, Morgan Smith, the academy and the Pike Township school corporation individually and on behalf of K.G., alleging negligence resulting in emotional distress, the loss of Ruch’s ability to care for K.G. and the expenses of placing K.G. in a chronic care home.

Pike Township and the academy moved for summary judgment, arguing Ruch could not recover for emotional trauma because she wasn’t present during the assault. The Marion Superior Court granted summary judgment as to all claims Ruch brought individually.

The appellate court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded on the issue of economic damages. Arguments in the case are scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sept. 16.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, masks are required in the Supreme Court’s courtroom and public seating is limited for social distancing for all three arguments.

Live webcasts will be available outside the courtroom and online.

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