Government Organization Potentially Evades Responsibility in Wrongful Death Lawsuit Due to Parties’ Procedural Missteps

When someone intends on filing an Indiana wrongful death lawsuit, a thorough investigation must be conducted to determine all of the proper parties that should be named in the lawsuit. In situations in which a government entity is discovered to be one of the potential defendants, Indiana law requires that certain additional steps be taken when naming that entity as a defendant.

RollercoasterUnder the Indiana Tort Claims Against Governmental Entities and Public Employees Act, plaintiffs intending on filing lawsuits filed against government entities must first provide notice of the claim to the government entity. This notice is due either 180 or 270 days after the incident. If a party fails to provide the government entity with notice of the claim and proceeds to file the claim, the court will dismiss the plaintiff’s case.

A recent wrongful death case illustrates the importance of conducting a thorough investigation.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ young daughter was killed in a tragic accident while she was on a school trip visiting a New Jersey boardwalk. According to the court’s opinion, the girl was involved in a fatal accident on one of the rides on the boardwalk.

The girl’s parents filed a wrongful death case against several defendants, all of which were involved in the boardwalk operation. However, the girl’s parents did not name the girl’s school as a defendant. After the case was filed, the named defendants attempted to bring the girl’s school into the lawsuit through a third-party claim for contribution. Essentially, this allows for a named defendant to name an additional party who that defendant believes is also liable to the plaintiff.

The school argued that it could not be joined as a party to the lawsuit because it was considered a government entity, and it was not provided with pre-suit notice, as was required by law. The plaintiffs argued that the rule requiring pre-suit notice applied only to plaintiffs attempting to name government defendants, rather than a defendant who is attempting to bring in a government entity through a claim for third-party contribution.

In an interesting opinion, the court sided with the school and prevented the defendants from adding the school as a potentially liable party in the plaintiff’s lawsuit. However, the court explained that when the case goes to trial, the defendants should be permitted to argue that the school was liable. If the jury agrees and finds the school was partially at fault, the plaintiffs’ award amount should be reduced by that percentage.

Thus, as a result of the court’s opinion, the defendants will still only be held responsible for their own percentage of fault. However, the plaintiffs will be unable to recover compensation from the government entity. Had the plaintiffs named the school as a defendant in their initial complaint, this issue would not have come up.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Indiana personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience assisting Indiana wrongful death claimants with seeking the compensation they need and deserve following fatal accidents. We understand the nuances of Indiana personal injury law and leverage our knowledge to our clients’ advantage. Call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

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