A recent memorandum decision from the Indiana Court of Appeals in J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. v. Guardianship of Zak affirmed an Indiana trial court’s order awarding the guardianship of a passenger injured in a semi-truck collision $4,810,000.00 in prejudgment interest.
Ten months after an Indiana jury found in favor of the passenger and against the driver of the semi tractor-trailer and the trucking company he was working for at the time of the trucking accident, the passenger requested prejudgment interest on the $32,500,000.00 jury award. The driver of the semi tractor-trailer and the trucking company appealed the trial court’s order of pre-judgement interest arguing that the guardianship of the injured passenger had failed to comply with Indiana’s Tort Prejudgment Interest Statute (TPIS), as set forth in Indiana Code section 34-51-4-6, and that the request for prejudgment interest was untimely. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment.
Prejudgment interest is allowed under Indiana law as an additional element of damages to achieve full compensation for the prevailing party at trial. The truck driver and trucking company argued that the guardianship of the injured passenger did not comply with the TPIS because it did not make an offer of settlement within one year of filing the lawsuit and the settlement offer that was eventually made did not allow the truck driver and trucking company sixty (60) days to pay the amount of the settlement offer. In affirming the trial court on these issues, the Indiana Court of Appeals noted that the statute is not meant to serve as a trap for the wary but is meant to put a party on notice of a claim and encourage settlement. The Indiana Court of Appeals found that the trial court acted within its discretion in determining that the guardianship’s settlement offer satisfied the statute because the guardianship had established good cause for the delay in tendering its settlement offer due to critical documents being withheld by the truck driver and trucking company during discovery, and because the settlement offer included time-limiting language.
As for the issue raised by the truck driver and the trucking company concerning the timeliness of the request for prejudgment interest, the Indiana Court of Appeals noted that the TPIS does not provide a time limit for filing a request for prejudgment interest. Additionally, the truck driver and trucking company, who were appealing the jury trial award during the 10-month period after the judgment, established no harm as a result of the guardianship’s delay in submitting its request.
Barsumian Armiger is a full-service personal injury and medical malpractice law firm with offices in Newburgh, Indiana, Evansville, Indiana and Fishers, Indiana, serving the greater Evansville and Indianapolis areas. Barsumian Armiger and its injury lawyers handle cases arising from car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, defective products, premise liability, nursing home negligence, and medical malpractice.