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The Indiana Court of Appeals recently affirmed a jury’s $510,000 award in favor of an injured woman in a slip-and-fall case in Indianapolis, Indiana. In Mastellone v. Young Men’s Christian Ass’n of Greater Indianapolis, Jacqueline Mastellone (“Mastellone”) slipped and fell at an Indianapolis YMCA as she was walking back to a locker room after a swim class. The area where she fell did not have a slip-resistant mat. As part of a facility upgrade, the YMCA later replaced the flooring where Mastellone fell. Mastellone dislocated and fractured her left shoulder in the fall, which required a shoulder replacement, and she sued the YMCA for her injuries and damages.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Mastellone calculating her total damages at $850,000, which was reduced to $510,000 based upon finding her 40% at fault and the YMCA 60% at fault. Prior to trial, the YMCA filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence as to the new floor installation. The trial court ordered it would allow evidence of the new floor installation, but it would not allow evidence that the flooring was changed. During trial, when Mastellone’s counsel asked a YMCA employee whether the flooring had been replaced, YMCA’s counsel objected, arguing the evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial. After the trial court indicated it would allow the question, YMCA’s counsel moved for a mistrial, which the trial court denied. In response to the question from Mastellone’s counsel, the YMCA employee testified the flooring had been replaced. YMCA’s counsel then elicited testimony that the flooring was not changed due to the fall but a facility upgrade. After the jury had reached a verdict but before reentering the courtroom, YMCA’s counsel then moved for a second mistrial after learning a piece of the flooring where Mastellone fell had not been sent back to the jury room. The trial court denied the second motion for mistrial because the jury had the opportunity to examine the flooring after it had been admitted as evidence.

After the jury verdict was read, the trial court stated it would enter judgement on the verdict, and then the trial court noted the entry of judgment on the docket, or chronological case summary (CCS). However, three days after the verdict, the trial court sua sponte (i.e., of its own accord) issued an Order Reconsidering Motion for Mistrial setting aside the jury’s verdict and the judgement. In its Order Reconsidering Motion for Mistrial, the trial court did not state which of the two motions for mistrial it had reconsidered, and it did not provide any reasoning. Mastellone appealed the Order Reconsidering Motion for Mistrial and the YMCA cross appealed arguing the trial court erred in denying its two mistrial motions and the verdict was excessive.

Over a year and a half ago we wrote about the Indiana Court of Appeals decision in Parkview Hosp. Inc. v. Am. Family Ins. Co. (“Parkview I”) in which the Court held that Parkview Hospital (“Parkview”) was entitled to summary judgment on its hospital lien claim against American Family Insurance Company (“American Family”) after American Family violated the Indiana Hospital Lien Act, Ind. Code § 32-33-4-4, by paying settlement funds directly to Ohio plaintiffs in a car accident personal injury matter pursuant to an Ohio court order without having obtained a release of Parkview’s hospital lien. Recently, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued another opinion in Parkview Hosp. Inc. v. Am. Family Ins. Co. (“Parkview II”) in a second appeal of the matter.

On remand after the first appeal the trial court ordered American Family to pay Parkview the full amount of Parkview’s hospital lien, $95,541.88, and Parkview’s attorney’s fees. After American Family filed a motion to correct error, the trial court ordered that Parkview was not entitled to its attorney’s fees; however, the trial court ordered that Parkview was entitled to the full amount of its hospital lien despite American Family’s request that its liability be limited to $50,000.00, which was the Ohio plaintiffs’ underinsured policy limits. Parkview appealed raising three issues: (1) whether Parkview I required the trial court to enter judgment for Parkview on its original request for damages and attorney’s fees; (2) whether American Family forfeited its challenges to Parkview’s damages by raising those challenges under Indiana Trial Rule 59 on remand; and (3) whether Parkview was entitled to its attorney’s fees under the Hospital Lien Act. American Family cross-appealed raising just one issue, whether it was required to pay Parkview the full amount of Parkview’s lien, $95,541.88, or the $50,000.00 limit of its underinsured policy with its insured.

In Parkview II the Indiana Court of Appeals ultimately concluded that the amount of Parkview’s damages and whether it was entitled to attorney’s fees was not decided in Parkview I, American Family did not forfeit its right to challenge the trial court’s award of damages and attorney’s fees under Indiana Trial Rule 59, Parkview was not entitled to attorney’s fees under Indiana’s Hospital Lien Act, and American Family’s responsibility for damages was limited to $50,000.00.

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently revived a dismissed wrongful death case brought by two stepchildren against their stepmother for the death of their father. In Estate of Bichler by Ivy v. Bichler, Jennifer Ivy and Tyler Bichler sued their stepmother, Wanda Bichler, for the death of their father, Jeffrey Bichler. Jennifer and Tyler alleged Wanda killed Jeffrey to collect on his $300,000 life insurance policy. The life insurance company had already filed an interpleader action in federal court depositing the $300,000 in life insurance proceeds with the court. Wanda thereafter died, and after her death, two individuals were appointed as personal representatives of her estate and the life insurance proceeds were transferred to state court to be distributed pending the outcome of Jennifer and Tyler’s lawsuit. While Jennifer and Tyler amended their lawsuit to add a count for a state interpleader action for the life insurance proceeds, they did not name the personal representatives of Wanda’s Estate. Wanda’s Estate intervened in the lawsuit, noting Wanda, “who was the original Defendant in the action,” had passed. Wanda’s estate then moved to dismiss Jennifer and Tyler’s lawsuit pursuant to Indiana Trial Rules 12(B)(2) (lack of personal jurisdiction), 12(B)(6) (failure to state a claim), and 12(B)(7) (failure to join a necessary party) because Jennifer and Tyler had not named the personal representatives of Wanda’s Estate as defendants. Jennifer and Tyler opposed the motion and amended their complaint to add a claim for constructive trust, while continuing to name only Wanda as a defendant. The trial court granted Wanda’s Estate’s motion to dismiss under Trial Rule 12(B) and Jennifer and Tyler appealed.

On appeal the Indiana Court of Appeals first explained that a dismissal based upon a plaintiff’s failure to substitute a personal representative of a defendant’s estate as a defendant should not be analyzed under Indiana Trial Rule 12, but rather Indiana Trial Rules 25 and 41(E). Under Indiana’s Survival Statute, “[i]f an individual who is… liable in a cause of action dies, the cause of action survives and may be brought… against the representative of the deceased party…” and it can also “be continued… against the legal representatives… of the deceased.” Ind. Code § 34-9-3-1. When a sole defendant dies in a case, the matter is stayed so that the proper parties can be substituted. Under Indiana Trial Rule 25, with the exception of a public official sued in an official capacity, a “motion for substitution may be made by the court, any party or by the successors or representatives of the deceased party…” Ind. R. Trial P. 25(A). Importantly, unlike Rule 25 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which states a case must be dismissed if the motion for substitution is not made within 90 days after service of a statement noting a party’s death, Indiana Trial Rule 25 does not include any time limitations for filing a motion to substitute. Nonetheless, a case is still subject to dismissal under Indiana Trial Rule 41(E) if a “Suggestion of Death” is filed putting everyone on notice that a defendant has died, and a plaintiff fails to comply with a court order setting a time to file a motion to substitute or otherwise fails to timely prosecute the action.

In this case, Wanda’s Estate did not file a Suggestion of Death but intervened in the action based upon Wanda’s passing. Contrary to Indiana Trial Rule 24(C), Wanda’s Estate did not note in its motion to intervene the claim, defense, or matter for which intervention was sought, and in its motion, Wanda’s Estate also referred to Wanda as “the original Defendant.” Jennifer and Tyler thought, reasonably so according to the Indiana Court of Appeals, that the intervention served as a substitution, but they also noted in their response to the motion to dismiss that Wanda’s Estate could be substituted if the trial court found such necessary. While noting that intervention and substitution are not the same thing, the Court of Appeals noted there is no reason an intervention cannot also serve as a substitution when the sole purpose of intervening is to replace a defendant. In any case, the Court of Appeals found Jennifer and Tyler did not fail to comply with any deadline under Indiana Trial Rules 25 or 41(E), and therefore, their case should not have been dismissed.

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently affirmed the grant of summary judgment for a defendant driver in a car accident case finding the driver suffered a medical emergency that was not reasonably foreseeable. In Patrick v. Henthorn, Walter E. Patrick, III (“Patrick”) filed a lawsuit against April J. Henthorn (“Henthorn”) arising out of an intersection collision in Indianapolis, Indiana, which resulted in Patrick suffering several injuries and incurring more than $50,000.00 in medical bills. Henthorn, who had ornithine transcarbamylase (“OTC”), a “protein allergy,” raised an affirmative defense to Patrick’s lawsuit and filed a motion for summary judgment stating she lost consciousness at the time of the collision due to a sudden emergency not of her own making.

Henthorn testified that prior to the accident she was feeling fine and in good health, but at the time of the accident she suddenly and unexpectedly felt light-headed, flushed, and dizzy and thereafter lost consciousness. She testified when she regained consciousness, she was in her stopped vehicle adjacent to a telephone pole. She testified she did not recall the crash. Henthorn’s doctor, who had treated Henthorn for her OTC deficiency for many years, testified that he believed Henthorn suffered a sudden change in mental status with loss of consciousness prior to the collision that resulted from an unforeseen elevation in her blood ammonia levels due to her OTC deficiency, which caused Henthorn to become incapacitated just before losing control of her car and crashing.

Patrick filed a response to Henthorn’s motion for summary judgment designating the affidavits from Henthorn and her doctor, Henthorn’s deposition, and the accident report. Patrick argued Henthorn’s deposition testimony conflicted with her affidavit and her doctor’s affidavit when she testified in her deposition that she had not experienced lightheadedness or loss of consciousness in the past ten years. Patrick also raised discrepancies as to her testimony about how she felt prior to the accident and her version of the accident. After a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in Henthorn’s favor, finding no inconsistencies in the designated evidence, or at most immaterial inconsistencies, and that Henthorn’s sudden physical incapacity was not foreseeable.

We previously discussed the potential significance of an MCS-90 insurance policy endorsement in a truck accident case in discussing Prime Insurance Co. v. Wright. Such an endorsement is considered a guarantee of sorts, or suretyship, by an insurance company that a federally-regulated motor carrier will meet its public financial responsibility obligation under the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 as required and regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Recently, in Progressive Southeastern Insurance Co. v Brown, the Indiana Supreme Court addressed whether an MCS-90 endorsement applies when a commercial truck crash occurs during an intrastate trip involving the transportation of non-hazardous cargo. In Brown, the commercial truck driver, Bruce Brown, an employee of B&T Bulk, a Mishawaka-based motor carrier out of Mishawaka, Indiana, was driving a truck and empty trailer when his truck crossed the centerline, striking another vehicle killing the driver, Dona Johnson.

Ms. Johnson’s surviving spouse brought a wrongful death case against Brown and B&T on his own behalf and on behalf of his widow’s estate. Progressive Southeastern Insurance Company then filed a separate declaratory judgment case against Johnson, B&T and Brown requesting a declaration from the court that it should not owe any duty to defend or indemnify B&T or Brown, because the insurance policy it had issued did not include the truck and trailer and, although Progressive had provided B&T with an MCS-90 endorsement, the endorsement should not apply. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Johnson’s insurer, intervened in the case and joined with Johnson’s widow and her estate, Brown, and B&T, in arguing that the MCS-90 endorsement should apply binding Progressive to pay any final judgment in the case. The trial court agreed with Progressive that the truck and trailer were not insured autos and that Progressive had no duty to defend or indemnify Brown. However, the trial court found the MCS-90 endorsement applied, which ruling Progressive appealed.

We recently wrote about the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision in Arrendale v. American Imaging & MRI, LLC in which the Court held that non-hospital medical providers could be responsible for the negligent acts or omissions of their independent contractors through apparent agency. The same day the Court issued its opinion in Arrendale, the Court also issued an opinion in Wilson v. Anonymous Defendant 1 in which it adopted Restatement (Second) of Agency section 267 and held as a matter of first impression that a medical provider can be responsible for the negligent acts or omissions of an apparent agent based upon a medical provider’s manifestations that an agency relationship exists, which causes a third party to rely on that relationship. The rule articulated in Wilson, unlike in Arrendale, does not require an independent contractor relationship.

In Wilson, Darci Wilson (“Wilson”) received medical care from Anonymous Defendant 1, an orthopedic physician group. She had a knee replacement performed at Anonymous Defendant 1’s facility and was thereafter referred for physical therapy on the second floor of Anonymous Defendant 1’s facility. Anonymous Defendant 1 and Accelerated Rehab, a physical therapy company, had a “Staffing Agreement” whereby Accelerated Rehab would provide physical therapy personnel to staff Anonymous Defendant 1’s facility. Athletico, Ltd and Athletico Management, LLC (“Athletico”) thereafter acquired Accelerated Rehab and seemingly continued to operate under the “Staffing Agreement.” However, there was no contract, agreement, or any legal relationship between Anonymous Defendant 1 and Athletico or its rehab personnel.

Wilson was injured while undergoing physical therapy with physical therapist Christopher Lingle (“Lingle”) at Anonymous Defendant 1’s facility, which also housed Athletico. Wilson filed a proposed complaint alleging medical negligence against Anonymous Defendant 1 before the Indiana Department of Insurance, and later, after the two-year statute of limitations had already expired, she filed against Lingle and Athletico, which were not qualified under the Medical Malpractice Act, in state court. Lingle and Athletico moved for summary judgment based upon the statute of limitations, which the trial court granted. Anonymous Defendant 1 also moved for summary judgment arguing it could not be liable for Lingle because it had no employment or contractual relationship with Lingle. The trial court granted Anonymous Defendant 1’s motion and Wilson appealed. On appeal the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with Anonymous Defendant 1 finding Anonymous Defendant 1 could not be held liable for Lindle’s actions under Sword because there was no independent contractor relationship between Anonymous Defendant 1 and Lingle. However, the Indiana Supreme Court accepted transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals opinion, and reversed the trial court, finding a genuine issue of material fact existed under Section 267’s apparent agency principles.

We previously wrote about the Indiana Court of Appeals decision in Arrendale v. Am. Imaging & MRI, LLC in which the Indiana Court of Appeals held that the apparent agency principles set forth in the Indiana Supreme Court’s opinion in Sword v. NKC Hosps., Inc., 714 N.E.2d 142 (Ind. 1999) and Restatement (Second) of Torts section 429 applied to non-hospital medical providers. The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer and agreed, holding Sword and Section 429’s apparent agency principles apply to non-hospital medical entities that provide healthcare to patients.

The Plaintiff in Arrendale, Harold Arrendale (“Arrendale”), sued American Imaging & MRI, LLC, also known as Marion Open MRI (“Marion Open MRI”), an outpatient diagnostic imaging center, and radiologist Dr. Alexander Boutselis for medical malpractice relating to MRIs Arrendale underwent at Marion Open MRI that were interpreted by Dr. Boutselis. While Dr. Boutselis was not an employee of Marion Open MRI, Arrendale sought to hold Marion Open MRI responsible for his malpractice as an apparent agent of Marion Open MRI, which, unlike Dr. Boutselis, was not qualified under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act. Marion Open MRI never indicated to Arrendale that Dr. Boutselis was an independent contractor, Dr. Boutselis’ opinions and conclusions in his radiology report were on Marion Open MRI’s letterhead, and Marion Open MRI advertised its services stating in a building sign that patients could “Save $$ on your next MRI!”

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Marion Open MRI because Indiana’s appellate courts had not yet applied Sword outside the hospital setting. The Indiana Supreme Court in Sword adopted the Restatement (Second) of Torts section 429 with regards to care provided in the hospital setting. Section 429 provides that “[o]ne who employs an independent contractor to perform services for another which are accepted in the reasonable belief that the services are being rendered by the employer or by his servants, is subject to liability for physical harm caused by the negligence of the contractor in supplying such services, to the same extent as though the employer were supplying them himself or by his servants.” Restatement (Second) of Torts § 429 (1965).

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently held that a duplex rental owner could not be held liable for injuries to a child attacked by a lessee’s dog. In Marchino as next friend Marchino v. Stines, Rex Lott (“Lott”) owned and rented a duplex property in Indianapolis, Indiana. Matthew Marchino (“Marchino”) and his family, including his son, Marcellus Marchino (“Marcellus”), rented one side of the duplex and Woody Stines (“Stines”) rented the other side. Stines had a pit bull named Boy (“Boy”). Prior to the dog bite attack in this case, Lott had been told that Boy had chased a neighbor to the bus stop and that Boy had also nipped a maintenance man fixing a toilet in Stines’ home. While Lott had thereafter asked Stines to remove the dog, Lott did not press Stines when Stines failed to remove Boy because Stines was suffering from leukemia. Unfortunately, Boy got loose one day and attacked Marcellus as Marchino and Marcellus were leaving their home.

Marchino filed a negligence lawsuit against Stines and Lott. To establish negligence in Indiana, a plaintiff must show a duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant, the defendant’s breach of that duty by failing to comply with the requisite standard of care, and injuries proximately caused by the breach.

Lott filed a motion for summary judgment arguing he had no duty of care towards Marcellus and could not be held liable for the injuries Boy caused because Stines had leased the property and had exclusive possession and control of the property. In response, Marchino argued Lott knew of Boy’s dangerous propensities (a question of fact conceded by Lott), and Lott had retained control of the premises giving rise to a duty of care to Marcellus. As to control, Marchino pointed to the lease agreement between Stines and Lott, which provided Lott retained a right of inspection and no pets were allowed on the property unless approved by Lott. After a hearing, the trial court granted Lott’s motion for summary judgment finding Lott owed no duty of reasonable care to Marcellus.

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently revived a parents’ case filed against a public school for mental anguish their seven-year-old son experienced when he was incorrectly directed to walk home from school instead of riding the school bus home. In Hopkins v. Indianapolis Pub. Sch., Casey Hopkins and Terry Yarbrough (the Parents), filed a lawsuit on behalf of their son, DeShawn Yarbrough (DeShawn), against Indianapolis Public Schools d/b/a Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58 (the School). On DeShawn’s second day of first grade at the School, DeShawn, who had a blue tag attached to his school bag indicating he was a bus rider, got in line to go home on the school bus, as he had done the previous day. However, he was directed by a teacher to leave the line and wait with other children who would be walking home. DeShawn had never walked to or from the school and his house was around 1.2 miles from the school. He did not know how to get home and ended up walking over a mile in the wrong direction during which time he was approached by a homeless man in an alley, he was chased by dogs, and he had to cross a busy road at rush hour. Ultimately, a stranger helped DeShawn and contacted the school, the police, and his mom.

The Parents sued the school claiming the School failed to exercise reasonable care and supervision for DeShawn’s safety. The School filed a motion for summary judgment in court arguing it was entitled to immunity as a governmental entity under the Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA), which provides “[a] governmental entity… is not liable if a loss results from… [t]he adoption and enforcement of or a failure to adopt or enforce… in the case of a public school… a policy.” Ind. Code § 34-13-3-3(a)(8)(B). After a hearing, the trial court granted the School’s motion for summary judgment finding the School was immune from liability under the ITCA.

The Parents appealed and on appeal argued the School was not entitled to immunity under Indiana Code § 34-13-3-3(a)(8)(B) because what happened to their son did not result from the School’s failure to properly enforce a school policy. While the Court of Appeals noted some question as to the meaning of “policy” under the ITCA, the Court ultimately concluded the Parents’ claim did not arise from the School’s failure to “enforce” its dismissal procedures, and therefore the School was not entitled to the “enforcement” immunity under the ITCA. The Court reviewed prior precedent defining enforcement under the ITCA as “compelling or attempting to compel the obedience of another to laws, rules or regulations, and the sanctioning or attempt to sanction a violation thereof,” such as a school deciding to suspend, expel, or impose discipline on students. Here, the Court ruled public schools are not entitled to immunity when they are sued concerning their own compliance, or failure to comply, with laws, regulations, or their own policies, and since the Parents were alleging the School itself failed to comply with its own dismissal procedures, as opposed to the School failing to compel DeShawn’s obedience to its dismissal procedures, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment under Indiana Code § 34-13-3-3(a)(8)(B) of the ITCA.

In a matter of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals recently reviewed the applicability of Indiana’s Bystander Rule for emotional distress damages arising from a home gas explosion and fire. In Ceres Sols. Coop., Inc. v. Estate of Bradley, Ceres Solutions Cooperative, Inc. (“Ceres”) negligently failed to check for gas leaks in refilling a propane tank at Kenneth Bradley’s (“Bradley”) home. Bradley lived in the home with his wife Kathy and son Eric. In the early morning after the refill, while Bradley was at work, Eric turned on a lamp next to his bed, which caused an explosion, surrounding him in a ball of fire. Part of the home’s roof collapsed and there was rubble and fires around the home. Eric was severely burned but escaped. Kathy was killed.

Bradley filed a lawsuit against Ceres which included a claim for his emotional distress. Typically, to recover emotional distress damages in Indiana, under Indiana’s Modified Impact Rule, a claimant must suffer a direct impact by another’s negligence and by virtue of that involvement suffer an emotional trauma serious in nature and of a kind and extent normally expected to occur in a reasonable person. However, Indiana has also adopted the Bystander Rule, which is an exception to the Modified Impact Rule, that allows emotional distress damages when a claimant establishes a direct involvement with the incident. To recover emotional distress damages under Indiana’s Bystander Rule, courts consider as a matter of law three factors: (1) the severity of the victim’s injury (serious injury or death to a victim), (2) the relationship of the plaintiff to the victim (a close familial relationship with the victim), and (3) the circumstances surrounding the claimant’s discovery of the victim’s injury (direct observation of the incident or its immediate “gruesome aftermath,” rather than learning of the incident by indirect means). To satisfy the third factor, (A) the bystander claimant must come on the scene at or immediately following the incident, (B) the claimant must not have been informed of the incident before coming on the scene, and (C) the scene and victim must be in essentially the same condition as immediately following the incident.

Here, about three hours after the explosion, Bradley was driving home from work when he came upon a roadblock, around three-quarters of a mile from his home. He could see flames coming from his home. He asked the lady at the roadblock, who was a local volunteer firefighter’s wife, whether his wife made it out of the house, but she did not know, she had no radio, and she had not been provided any information as to what was occurring. Bradley drove to his home and saw “big and steady” flames. Bradley saw his son Eric on a gurney with a blanket on and visible burn injuries to his face. Eric told Bradley he did not know where Kathy was, and although firefighters continued to search for her, the flames got bigger every time they dug, so they had to wait. The firefighters eventually found Kathy and made Bradley leave the scene so they could remove her.

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