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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, re Tort Claims Act

In John W. Schoettmer & Karen Schoettmer v. Jolene C. Wright & South Central Community Action Program, Inc., a 10-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Massa writes:

After he was injured in an automobile accident, John Schoettmer cooperated with the other driver’s insurer in hopes of settling his claim. Nearly a year later, when settlement proved elusive, he hired a lawyer and filed suit. Only then did he learn that the other driver was employed by a political subdivision subject to the Indiana Tort Claims Act. Schoettmer cited several reasons to excuse his failure to comply with the notice requirements of that Act, including waiver, substantial compliance, agency, and estoppel. We find the first three unavailing, but conclude he should be permitted to present proof of estoppel to the trial court, and we reverse and remand on that basis. * * *

The trial court ultimately granted summary judgment in the defendants’ favor. The Schoettmers appealed, raising the same arguments they brought up in the trial court. A divided panel of our Court of Appeals rejected all of these arguments and affirmed the trial court. Schoettmer v. Wright, 971 N.E.2d 118, 120 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012). Judge Crone dissented, believing “South Central should be estopped from asserting the Schoettmers’ noncompliance with the ITCA.” * * *

Conclusion. We therefore reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in the defendants’ favor as to the adequacy of the Schoettmers’ tort claim notice and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 27, 2013 11:28 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions