The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently requested the Indiana Supreme Court address two questions through a process known as certification of questions. Both Seventh Circuit Rule 52(a) and Indiana Rule of Appellate Procedure 64 recognize federal courts may seek guidance from a state’s highest court on questions arising under the law of that state which will control the outcome of a case pending in federal court.
The questions arose out of a tragic car crash in Gibson County, Indiana, which claimed the lives of two drivers and a passenger. Sylvia Watson was driving from a repair shop in Owensville, Indiana to Princeton, when she approached a red light and exclaimed to the sole survivor of the crash, her granddaughter/passenger, Brandy Mayer, that she could not stop the vehicle. Watson’s vehicle struck a vehicle driven by Claudine Cutchin, whose daughter, Adelaide, was in the passenger seat. Claudine died at the scene and Watson and Adelaide died later from the injuries suffered.
A blood test on Watson revealed opiates in her bloodstream and Mayer recounted Watson had taken two pills before leaving the repair shop. It was later discovered that a physician had prescribed Watson eight different medications, including an opioid and muscle relaxers.