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Friday, January 20, 2012

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In Indiana Dept. of Insurance, Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund v. Robin Everhart, Personal Rep. of the Estate of James K. Everhart, Jr., a 17-page, 5-0 opinion, Chief Justice Shepard writes:

Robin Everhart filed suit against the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF) to recover excess damages after settling a wrongful death claim against an emergency room physician in whose care her husband died. The PCF asked the trial court to reduce its award of damages to account for the twenty percent chance that Robin’s husband would have died anyway, even in the absence of the physician’s negligence. The trial court declined to do so, awarding Robin the statutory maximum $1 million in excess damages. We affirm, but on slightly different grounds. * * *

Robin’s case differs from our Mayhue line of cases not only in that Everhart stood a better-than-even chance of recovering in the absence of any medical negligence, but also in that joint tortfeasors negligently caused him an indivisible harm. That latter distinguishing fact triggers our rules on joint and several liability, which make it unnecessary for us to decide today whether to extend Cahoon to better-than-even cases. * * *

[W]e do not see any grounds on which we could reduce the trial court’s award of $1 million in excess damages, so deciding whether to extend or halt Cahoon’s advance would seem unnecessary at best. Because we hold that the PCF was not entitled to a set-off, we also need not address Robin’s argument that the trial court should reduce any set-off based on fees and expenses.

Conclusion For the reasons stated above, we affirm the trial court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 20, 2012 12:18 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions