Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

After a jury returned a verdict in favor of the doctor in a medical malpractice case, an estate executor appealed on two questions of abuse of discretion: limitations on the scope of questions during the defendant’s deposition, and refusal of jury instructions tendered by the plaintiff. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s verdict in Ruble v. Thompson, finding that the court did not abuse its discretion on any of the points raised on appeal.

Larry Ruble filed suit against Dr. Lori Thompson as an individual and on behalf of the estate of his wife, Natasha Ruble. According to the Court of Appeals’ opinion, Dr. Thompson first saw Natasha during her first day of practice after completing her residency in September 1998. Natasha was fifteen years old at the time and sought treatment for abdominal pain. Dr. Thompson reportedly saw Natasha in about twenty appointments over the following forty-six months. A physician’s assistant working for Dr. Thompson requested a CT scan in July 2002, which revealed that Natasha had advanced liver cancer. The scan showed an eighteen-centimeter cancerous lesion, although CT scans and other diagnostic tools can detect lesions as small as one centimeter. Trial experts testified that Natasha had about a five percent chance of survival by the time she was diagnosed, and that her chances would have been as high as fifty percent had diagnosis occurred a year earlier.

Natasha died on April 30, 2004, having married Larry Ruble on March 15, 2003. Larry filed a proposed malpractice complaint against Dr. Thompson with the Indiana Department of Insurance and a state court lawsuit in July 2004. He alleged that Dr. Thompson negligently failed to follow accepted standards of care in her treatment of Natasha, resulting in her death.
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A Shelbyville man has submitted a tort claim to the Indiana Attorney General, indicating his intention to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the state’s Department of Child Services (DCS) over the death of his one year-old son. He alleges that DCS ignored warnings that the child’s mother and her boyfriend were abusing the child, and that the agency’s failure to intervene and protect the child contributed to his death. The man also notified the hospital that treated his son of his intent to file a medical negligence lawsuit.

According to Jerraco Noel, he reported the abuse of his son, Jayden, to DCS in July 2011. Jayden was treated in the emergency room of Major Hospital in Shelbyville on July 15, 2011 for injuries resulting from abuse by his mother and her boyfriend. DCS reportedly found Noel’s claims at the time “unsubstantiated.” Jayden died on January 18, 2012 from “multiple blunt-force traumatic injuries to the head.” Prosecutors have charged the mother and her boyfriend with neglect of a dependent causing death. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Noel claims that DCS “failed to conduct a reasonable investigation” after he reported his suspicions of abuse. He also alleges that the agency failed to consult with any of the medical professionals who treated Jayden, and that those medical professionals failed to report the injuries to DCS. He is demanding $700,000, the maximum amount of damages allowed by statute from DCS, for “loss of love and affection.”
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After her husband allegedly died from the effects of asbestos exposure, an Indiana woman filed suit against a company that provided services to his former employer. Her wrongful death lawsuit in Gill v. Evansville Sheet Metal Works, Inc. asserted claims for products liability and contractor negligence. Although the trial court dismissed both claims, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, the Indiana Supreme Court allowed the case to proceed on the contractor negligence claim.

Gale Gill worked for Aluminum Company of America, or Alcoa, at its plant in Newburgh, Indiana from approximately 1963 until 1986. As a “pot room worker,” he was tasked with the operation, maintenance, and repair of smelting pots. He allegedly experienced asbestos exposure during his time at the plant as a result of other people using and handling products that contained asbestos. In 2004, doctors diagnosed him with an asbestos-related illness. He died of lung cancer on May 4, 2005.

Sharon Gill, Gale Gill’s wife, filed suit against an Alcoa contractor, Evansville Sheet Metal Works, Inc. (ESMW), on May 4, 2007. ESMW allegedly provided services to Alcoa at the same work site where Gale Gill had all or part of his asbestos exposure. The exact time and location of ESMW’s alleged work remains undetermined, although all parties agree that any work that might have caused asbestos exposure occurred prior to 1989. The lawsuit went into the Mass Tort Asbestos Litigation Docket in Marion County, where it became subject to a stay.
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Victims of the stage collapse at the 2011 Indiana State Fair had until August 1, 2012 to approve a proposed settlement involving the State of Indiana, the owner of the collapsed stage, and the stage’s manufacturer. The stage owner rejected the settlement plan after the deadline, saying not enough plaintiffs had agreed. The Indiana Legislature approved two separate settlement amounts for the victims, but the state has not disbursed the second set of funds while the other settlement negotiations were in progress. Without a settlement of the plaintiffs’ claims, some of the defendants may attempt to file cross-claims against the state.

The stage collapse occurred at about 8:46 p.m. on August 13, 2011, as the country music band Sugarland was preparing to perform on the fair’s main stage, known as the Grandstand Stage. High winds from a nearby thunderstorm caused stage rigging and scaffolding to fall onto a crowd of fans. Seven people were killed, and more than fifty were injured. The Indiana State Fair Commission contracts private companies for many of the fair’s services. A private contractor produced the Grandstand Stage performances, and other contractors handled stage construction, sound and lighting, and other technical functions. An investigation by two engineering firms retained by the state concluded that the state could have been better prepared, that public safety protocols at the fair were not clear, and communication between fair officials and contractors regarding weather conditions was not good.
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The parents of a woman who died after falling from a staircase at a 2010 Halloween party have filed a lawsuit against the Chicago hotel and event companies that hosted the party. The suit alleges negligence against the party’s hosts for providing unlimited alcohol to the attendees, and failing to provide adequate security to keep them safe. The lawsuit draws on principles of premises liability and the Dram Shop law, but it may also have to contend with issues of comparative fault.

On October 30, 2010, 23 year-old Megan Duskey and friends went to a party at the Palmer House Hilton hotel in Chicago. Around two thousand guests were expected at the party, which was scheduled to go until 2:00 a.m. According to one of Duskey’s friends, they had been at the party for about thirty minutes when she stepped away for a moment. When the friend returned, her other friends told her that Duskey had fallen. Duskey had apparently tried to slide down a banister rail in a stairwell. She fell four stories and died instantly of head trauma. This occurred at about 10:30 p.m. The coroner’s office later ruled her death an accident.

Duskey’s parents, Deborah and James Duskey, filed a lawsuit on July 24, 2012 in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, naming the Palmer House Hilton and its parent, Hilton Worldwide, as defendants, along with the event companies, Surreal Chicago and Adrenaline Y2K. The party’s hosts, according to the lawsuit, allowed ticket holders at the party to “consume unlimited amounts of alcoholic beverages,” but did not have security to protect partygoers. The lawsuit alleges ten total counts and seeks over $500,000 in damages from the defendants.
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Indiana ranks in the middle of the fifty states and the District of Columbia when it comes to injury prevention, according to a recent study. The study, entitled “The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report,” is the work of the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), a health care policy organization, in partnership with the philanthropic Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study ranks states and D.C. based on ten “key indicators” relating to injury prevention laws or regulations. Indiana has five of the ten. It also ranks the states based on the total number of annual injury-related deaths per 100,000 people. With a rate of 60.4, Indiana ties Kansas for the twenty-seventh highest rate.

The study analyzed injury data, which it says account for 180,000 deaths per year in America. The lifetime costs of injuries in the U.S., which includes both immediate costs and ongoing care needs, as well as lost income and productivity, exceeded $406 billion in 2000. Injuries, as compared to communicable and non-communicable disease, are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of one and forty-four. At 97.8 njury-related deaths per 100,000 people, New Mexico has the highest annual rate. New Jersey, with 36.1, has the lowest. Indiana and Kansas, tied at twenty-seventh, are almost exactly in the middle.
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