Supreme Court set to hear December arguments in med mal, child deposition, forfeiture cases

The Indiana Supreme Court is set to hear several oral arguments next month concerning issues such as child depositions, medical malpractice, and civil forfeiture.

Justices will begin the newest round of oral arguments at 9 a.m. on Dec. 2 with the case of Indiana Department of Transportation v. FMG Indianapolis, LLC, Stephen Roudebush, and Jeffory Roudebush, 20A-PL-00215. There, an administrative order requiring property owners to remove long-existing billboards along State Road 32 in Hamilton County was upheld by the Department of Transportation commissioner.

The Hamilton Superior Court granted the property owners Stephen Roudebush, Jeffory Roudebush, and FMG Indianapolis’s petition for judicial review and vacated the commissioner’s decision. However, the Court of Appeals of Indiana reversed, holding that the administrative order was not barred by the statute of limitations or the doctrines of equitable estoppel or fundamental fairness.

Justices will also hear arguments in Steven Church v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-00068, at 10 a.m. on Dec. 2.   In the case, Steven Church was charged with child molesting and filed a petition to depose his accuser. The Marion Superior Court denied Church’s petition pursuant to Indiana Code section 35-40-5-11.5, which prevents a defendant from deposing certain child victims unless the prosecutor consents to the deposition or the trial court determines it is necessary due to extraordinary circumstances and in the interest of justice. The COA reversed and remanded, holding that the statute impermissibly conflicts with Indiana Trial Rules.

Additional arguments will be held at 9 a.m. on Dec. 9, beginning with Terry L. Abbott v. State of Indiana,  21S-PL-00347. In that case, a civil action was filed against Terry Abbott, who was convicted on felony drug charges, seeking forfeiture of more than $9,000 and four guns from Abbott found during a search. The Elkhart Superior Court denied Abbott’s request for the appointment of counsel at public expense and granted the state’s motion for summary judgment.

The COA reversed the entry of summary judgment for the state and affirmed the denial of Abbott’s request for appointed counsel, with the majority concluding Abbott could use the seized money to fund his defense. However, Judge Nancy Vaidik partially dissented and opined that she would not allow Abbott to use the seized cash to pay for an attorney.

At 10 a.m. on Dec. 9, justices will hear oral arguments in Lake Imaging, LLC v. Franciscan Alliance, Inc. f/d/b/a Saint Margaret Mercy Health Centers; ProAssurance Indemnity Company, Inc., 21S-CT-00478 to address whether the state’s Medical Malpractice Act extends beyond claims brought by injured patients. In the case, Franciscan Alliance sued the radiology group Lake Imaging for indemnification of an $187,001 malpractice settlement it reached with a deceased patient’s relatives. The Johnson Superior Court agreed with Lake Imaging that Franciscan’s claim was one of medical malpractice and dismissed it because the hospital did not obtain an opinion from the medical review panel before filing suit, as required by the MMA. The Indiana Court of Appeals subsequently affirmed.

Finally, justices will hear oral arguments at 9 a.m. on Dec. 16 in Progressive Southeastern Insurance Company v. B & T Bulk, LLC, Bruce A. Brown, Robin S. Johnson, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Dona S. Johnson, Robin S. Brown, Individually, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, 21S-CT-00496.  In that case, the Estate of Dona Johnson filed a wrongful death complaint against B&T Bulk and its truck driver, Bruce Brown, after a fatal accident occurred that resulted in Johnson’s death. B&T had a commercial automobile policy with Progressive Southeastern Insurance Company, which sought a judgment declaring that the MCS-90 endorsement to its policy does not apply to the accident. The Carroll Circuit Court ruled that Progressive had no duty to defend or indemnify B&T, but found that the endorsement did apply, which the COA affirmed.

December oral arguments will be held in person at the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom and will be streamed online.

The courtroom is open to the public with limited seating to maintain social distancing. Face masks will be required regardless of vaccination status.

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