Paul Kruse Pete Obremskey Tony Patterson
April 11, 2014

Off Duty Indiana Police Officer Likely Faces Criminal Charges in DUI Death

In an accident that can only be described as tragically ironic, an off duty central Indiana police officer rear ended another vehicle, killing one passenger and seriously injuring another and her unborn child. According to a report on Tristatehomepage.com, the Edgewood Indiana police officer was off duty on the evening of April 6, 2014 when he slammed into another vehicle and pushed it into a utility pole. The other vehicle was sandwiched between the officer’s car and the pole, which caused the injuries and death. After the accident, the officer was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence and booked into the local jail.

bottle-tops-228008-m.jpgThe Dangers of Drunk Driving

When someone is intoxicated and gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, the risk of an accident increases dramatically. This danger only increases at night, which is when most drunk driving incidents and arrests occur. Alcohol and drugs can reduce a driver’s reaction time, impair vision and hearing, and lead to poor judgment. Drunk drivers are also more likely to speed and ignore traffic laws, further increasing the chances of an accident. Because of all of these factors, punishments for a drunk driving accident in Indiana are very harsh.

Criminal Penalties are Just One Form of Punishment for Drunk Driving

As noted in the article, the off duty officer was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and causing severe injury and death. If the prosecution can prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the officer could face severe criminal penalties, including large fines and possibly spending the rest of his life in prison. As part of the criminal case, the officer may be required to pay restitution to the surviving victims of the crash. Restitution is financial compensation to help cover the family’s loss and expenses related to the crash. Restitution can help make up for the victims’ loss, but it is not guaranteed, and if the prosecution cannot prove their case, the victims will not receive restitution.

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April 4, 2014

Indiana Supreme Court Reverses Lower Courts’ Rulings, Allows Malpractice Suit to Continue.

In a somewhat surprising decision by the Indiana Supreme Court last month, the Court reversed two lower Courts’ rulings that a Plaintiff’s medical malpractice suit was not filed within the statute of limitations. In the case of Moryl v. Ransone, the Indiana Supreme Court accepted the Plaintiff’s argument that a medical malpractice suit shall be considered filed when the complainant delivers the complaint to a commercial courier service (i.e. UPS or FedEx), and not when the defendant receives the complaint. This appears to be a minor distinction, but in this case it meant everything to the Plaintiff’s case.

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The Case

On April 20, 2007, the Plaintiff’s husband died while under the care of the Defendant doctors and hospital. The circumstances of the death were suspicious to the Plaintiff, and she pursued a medical malpractice claim against the Defendants. The statute of limitations for an Indiana medical malpractice claim is two years, meaning that a medical malpractice complaint must be filed no more than two years after the alleged malpractice occurred or else it must be dismissed. Here, the Plaintiff mailed the complaint to the Indiana Department of Insurance, using FedEx overnight, on April 19, 2009 - one day before the statute of limitations expired. The Defendant received the complaint on April 21, 2009, or one day after the statute had expired.

The Trial Court’s Decision

When the case was heard by the District Court, the Defendants argued that under Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act (“the Act”), a complaint is considered filed only when it is sent by US Postal Service Registered or Certified mail. If a complaint is sent any other way, the Act states, it is to be considered filed upon receipt by the Defendant. Because the text of the Malpractice Act is clear that a complaint is only considered filed upon mailing by Certified or Registered mail, and the Defendants received the complaint one day after the statute of limitations expired, the District Court dismissed the complaint under the Act.

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March 24, 2014

Indiana Harbor Steelworker Dies from Burns Sustained in February Accident

Last Friday, a 62-year-old steelworker who had been critically injured in a workplace accident died from his injuries. According to a report by the Chesterton Tribune, on February 8, the employee was working in a water treatment area at ArcelorMittal’s Indiana Harbor steel processing facility, and was seriously burned when he fell into a sinkhole of scalding water that had opened up near a boiler tank. He was hospitalized with severe burns, and eventually died.
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The Accident

The sinkhole was discovered in December of last year in an open area adjacent to a brine tank, and was the result of a leaking pipe nearby. The company placed barriers around the sinkhole, but coworkers say that the visibility in that area of the plant was often poor and obstructed by steam, and the worker may not have seen the hazard. Unfortunately, the man fell through the barrier and into the scalding water that had gathered in the sinkhole. The management, the United Steelworker’s Union, and OSHA have conducted a joint study into the cause of accident but the results have not yet been released.

It is unfortunate that the sinkhole was not filled when it was discovered, and instead it was allowed to grow larger until this tragedy occurred. Because the facility placed barriers around the hole before the accident, it is difficult to predict if the employer may be responsible for the accident until the investigation is complete. The deceased man’s family likely faces substantial medical expenses from his month long hospitalization, and his death will result in other expenses. In addition the man’s family has suffered substantial non-monetary loss in the death of their loved one.

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March 17, 2014

Indiana Federal Court Decision Protects Plaintiffs Injured in Auto Accidents

In a recent decision, the federal court for the Northern District of Indiana denied an insurance companies’ request to throw out a plaintiff’s Indiana personal injury lawsuit. In Kopey v. Brown (South Bend Division, 3:11 CV 477), the insurance company argued that because the plaintiff had injuries from a prior accident, that they could not collect damages from a subsequent accident that may have aggravated those prior injuries.

red-light-875740-m.jpgA Terrible Accident

The plaintiff was coming to a stop at an intersection in Mishawaka, Indiana in August 2010 when she saw a car speeding towards her in her rear view mirror. She had little time to brace for impact, and was rear-ended by a car being driven by the defendant. The plaintiff was injured in the accident, and previous injuries she had from a 2007 accident were also aggravated. The defendant was not insured, so the plaintiff filed a claim with her own insurance company, Progressive, to cover the expenses related to the accident under her uninsured motorist protection.

Refused Coverage By Her Own Insurance Company

In response to the plaintiff’s insurance claim, Progressive refused to cover the charges. The company argued that she could not show that it was the second accident that caused her injuries and not the first accident or something else entirely. The plaintiff then filed this suit, claiming that her injuries should covered by her policy. In response to her request to bring the case to trial, the insurance company argued that the plaintiff had not presented any evidence of causation, and moved for summary dismissal of the suit.

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March 10, 2014

Fraudulent Concealment Tolls Statute of Limitations in Indiana Wrongful Death Case

Almost all tort actions must be brought within a certain amount of time otherwise the plaintiff is barred from bringing their suit. This is called the “statute of limitations,” and once it has run out, the plaintiff is out of luck. However, an opinion by the Court of Appeals of Indiana recently held that fraudulent concealment can act to toll the statute of limitations.

old-people-735910-m.jpgAlldredge v. Good Samaritan Home, Inc.

In Alldredge v. Good Samaritan Home, Inc., the plaintiff group was the family of a woman who was in the care of Good Samaritan Nursing Home. The woman had died, purportedly due to a fall that she suffered because of a pre-existing medical condition. However, several years after the death of their loved one, a former nursing-home employee told the family that their loved one didn’t die because of a fall.

Apparently, the nursing home covered up the fact that the woman actually had been involved in a fight with another nursing home resident, which caused her to fall. When the woman’s family filed suit against the nursing home twenty-three months after they learned the truth, the nursing home claimed that the 2-year statute of limitations had run and therefore the family didn’t have a case.

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March 3, 2014

Should Indiana Require Ignition Interlock Devices for Those Convicted of Drunk Driving?

Drunk driving claims the lives of hundreds of Indianans each year. Despite that fact, and the known dangers of drunk driving, people continue to drive drunk as a matter of habit. In response, some have suggested that Indiana should follow the lead of several other states and implement a new requirement that all first-time drunk driving offenders have an ignition interlock system installed on their vehicle.

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What Is An Ignition Interlock Device?

An ignition interlock system is a small box, usually attached to the steering column of the car, that a driver must blow into in order to start the vehicle. If the driver is sober, the car starts as normal. If the driver has alcohol on his or her breath, the ignition locks and that data is recorded and sent to the appropriate authorities.

The device also requires random testing while driving, as to prevent drivers from starting the car sober and then having a drink mid-ride. If a driver fails one of these random tests, the vehicle’s horn will continuously go off until the vehicle is stopped.

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February 24, 2014

Bill Designed to Increase the Quality of Care in Nursing Homes One Step Closer to Becoming Law

The Ways and Means Committee of the Indiana House of Representatives recently met and passed a bill purporting to increase the quality of care in Indiana nursing homes. The bill, which will next move on to the full House of Representatives for a vote, places a moratorium on the building of new nursing homes for one year. Should it pass, the bill will effectively halt new nursing homes from being built for a full year. The original bill suggested a 5-year moratorium on new nursing home development, but that number was lowered to one year in committee meetings.

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Proponents of the Bill

Proponents of the bill argue that most elderly people want to stay in their home. However, with an increasing number of nursing homes being built, elderly people on the fence about whether or not to move to a nursing home may be convinced to move in, when the decision is actually against what they truly want.

The design of the bill is to keep new nursing homes out of the market for awhile to let the older nursing homes fill up to capacity. Currently, many Indiana nursing homes are not near their capacity which creates financial pressure because they have certain fixed, or overhead, costs that don’t vary according to the number of residents. If nursing homes are allowed to fill up, then nursing homes are able to defray the fixed costs over a larger number of residents, allowing them to become more efficient.

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February 17, 2014

Dozens Injured, Several Killed in Massive Indiana Traffic Accident

A few weeks ago in LaPorte County, a massive accident took the lives of several motorists and injured dozens more. According to a report by FOX 59, the police named heavy snowfall and high winds as leading causes of the accident that involved cars, pick-up trucks, and semi-trucks.

snow-track-1255495-m.jpgWhen emergency crews arrived, they found several people stuck in their cars. Some people were trapped in their vehicles for hours while rescue workers attempted to free them. So many people were involved in the accident that two city buses were dispatched to the scene to bus the accident victims to warming stations and to the hospital. At the time of the article's publication, it was believed that at least 30 vehicles were involved in the gigantic accident.

Record Winter Still Causing Traffic Problems Across Indiana

No one can argue that this is one of the harshest winters Indiana has seen in years. The cold temperatures and the relentless rain, sleet, and snow have created a veritable mess on Indiana highways for what seems like months now. Every other week there are multiple-car accidents or pileups caused by the inclement weather. While the weather should relent in the coming weeks, it's difficult to say for sure when Spring will come.

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February 10, 2014

What is Summary Judgment in an Indiana Personal Injury Cases?

If you hear that a court “dismisses” a complaint, or finds in favor of the plaintiff, it may have been dismissed as a result of a summary judgment motion filed by one of the parties. A summary judgment motion is a motion made by either the plaintiff or the defendant asking the court to decided the case on the evidence submitted and skip the trial. It is appropriate when there are no legal issues for the judge or jury to decide, and the case can be decided on its facts.

surgery-3-1158306-m.jpgIn a recent case, the Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed the summary judgment standard that has been used in Indiana for several years. In the case, Rambo v. Justice, the plaintiff, Rambo, was involved in an auto accident and was taken to the hospital and treated by Dr. Justice. Dr. Justice treated Rambo, but failed to take spine x-rays. Rambo then went to physical therapy which ended up making her condition worse. After two weeks, it was discovered that she had spinal fractures as a result of the accident.

The defendant doctor filed a motion for summary judgment. The trial court
granted the motion and Rambo appealed to the court of appeals. On appeal, the court took the opportunity to affirm the standard for summary judgment, and when it is appropriate. Specifically, the court noted that the party seeking summary judgment “bears the burden of making a prima facie showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”

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February 3, 2014

Tort Claimant’s Initial Notice to City Doesn’t Restrict the Scope of the Claims that the Claimant Can Bring

The Indiana Tort Claims Act requires those who have suffered an injury and plan to sue a municipality provide notice to that municipality within 180 days of the injury or loss. This is to put the municipality on notice of the charges against it and to allow the municipality an adequate opportunity to investigate the occurrence and develop any possible defenses.

car-accident-671890-m.jpgIn a recent case in front of the Indiana Supreme Court, the question arose: can a claimant’s notice act to restrict the scope of her future lawsuit? The facts of the case will illuminate any confusion.

The plaintiff was rear-ended by an Indianapolis police officer in July of 2008. The next month, the plaintiff filed a tort claim notice to the City, explaining what had happened, attaching photographs of the accident, etc. In addition, the notice contained the following statement:

Damage: Rear Bumper and side panels damaged, see estimate from Sam Swope. No injuries.
Claim: $960.99

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January 27, 2014

Nursing Home Bill that Threatens to Decrease Competition in the Industry Moves to Full Senate

Recently, a bill was introduced to the Health and Provider Services Subcommittee of the Indiana Senate that would place a 5-year moratorium on the addition of new beds in nursing home facilities across Indiana. According to an article by the Journal Gazette, last week the subcommittee voted 8-4 to send the bill to a full Senate vote where, if it passes, it will move one step closer to becoming law.

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Senator Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, filed the bill because nursing home occupancy rates were at 74%, a number she says is too low. She cites that there are approximately 13,000 empty nursing home beds across Indiana and claims that by preventing the addition of new beds, the nursing home industry will stabilize and become more efficient.

However, by preventing nursing homes from expanding the number of available beds, the law also threatens to decrease competition in the industry because there will be no incentive to fill all the beds. This could result in a decrease in the quality of overall care provided to residents of nursing homes across the State of Indiana.

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January 20, 2014

Winter Driving Warning: Slow Down on Icy, Snowy Roads

As January and February bring record storms and snow totals across Indiana, the highways and surface roads can get ugly. One article by the Weather Channel from earlier this week notes a nasty pile-up on I-65, near Lafayette. According to the report, the snowy roads combined with fog and general low visibility led to an accident involving 13 vehicles.

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According to local police, one semi-truck caught fire and several motorists were sent to the hospital as a result of the crash. None of the injuries reported were life-threatening.

Winter Driving Tips

Thankfully, no one was seriously injured in the accident described above. However, that will not always be the case when the conditions are as bad as they have often been this winter season. To make sure that you and your family are safe out there on the road, follow these basic winter driving tips:

  • Check that all tires are properly inflated and in good working condition.
  • Ensure that you have an adequate amount of windshield wiper fluid.
  • Clear all snow and ice off of your car completely before driving.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half-full to avoid frozen gas lines.
  • Drive slow when the conditions are bad or there is low visibility.
  • Know how your car handles on slick, wet, or snow-covered roads.
  • Never drive tired and always keep 100% of your attention on the road.
  • Finally, always wear your seatbelt.

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