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Friday, September 06, 2013

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides two Indiana cases today

SCOTT WEIGLE and APRIL WEIGLE / JOHN MOORE, II and CORINNE MOORE v. SPX CORPORATION (SD Ind., McKinney), is a 33-page combined opinion. Judge Tinder writes:

This suit under the diversity jurisdiction stems from an incident in which a semi‐truck trailer fell off of its support stands and on top of Scott Weigle and John Moore, the two mechanics who were working on the trailer. Weigle and Moore each sued SPX Corporation, the designer of the support stands, asserting claims of inadequate warnings and defective design under the Indiana Product Liability Act (IPLA), Ind. Code § 34‐20‐1‐1 et seq. The district court granted summary judgment for SPX on all claims, finding that the warnings were adequate as a matter of law and that, as a result, the support stands were not defective under Indiana law. We affirm the district court’s judgments on the inadequate‐warnings claims, but we vacate the judgments on the defective‐design claims and remand for further proceedings.
Interestingly, the 7th Circuit opinion, in a footnote, strongly criticizes a footnote in a 1993 Indiana Court of Appeals opinion, Barnard v. Saturn Corp., relied on by SPX. See note 4, beginning on p. 30:
[4] In a footnote the Barnard court suggested that the term “reasonably expected use” actually means “reasonably expected permitted use” because otherwise the inclusion of a specific warning would amount to an admission that a use contrary to that warning was foreseeable. 790 N.E.2d at 1031 n.3.

We do not think the Indiana Supreme Court would so brazenly insert additional words into a statute. See State v. Am. Family Voices, Inc., 898 N.E.2d 293, 297 (Ind. 2008) (“The plain meaning of the statute … must be given effect.”); Grody v. State, 278 N.E.2d 280, 285 (Ind. 1972) (“It is not within the province of this Court to expand or contract the meaning of a statute by reading into it language which will, in the opinion of the Court, correct any supposed omissions or defects therein.” (citation omitted)).

In UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. LARRY E. HODGE (SD Ind., Young), a 13-page opinion, Judge Tinder writes:
Larry Hodge pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 1380 months’ imprisonment for multiple child pornography offenses. During his sentencing hearing, he offered testimony in mitigation from psychiatrist Dr. Louis Cady. The district court discussed some of Cady’s findings in explaining the sentence imposed, but neglected to mention other findings, most notably Dr. Cady’s contentions that Hodge’s history of sexual and psychological abuse as a child contributed to his decision to commit his offenses and that Hodge was unlikely to reoffend. Hodge claims that the district court’s alleged failures to address adequately these arguments constitute procedural error. We disagree. * * *

Hodge’s favored approach would turn sentencing courts’ discussions of the §3553(a) factors into checklist exercises, depriving judges of their discretion in sifting through large amounts of evidence to determine which items are most relevant. The Supreme Court has cautioned against such a checklist approach, reminding reviewing courts that “[t]he sentencing judge is in a superior position to find facts and judge their import under §3553(a).” Gall, 552 U.S. at 51 (internal quotation marks omitted). Here, the district court determined that the most noteworthy aspects of Dr. Cady’s testimony for mitigation purposes were his statements that Hodge suffered from pornography addiction, childhood sexual abuse, and childhood exposure to pornography. That the district court did not also discuss Dr. Cady’s testimony concerning the effects of Hodge’s premature sexualization or his views of Hodge’s prospects for rehabilitation does not rise to the level of procedural error.

Accordingly, the district court’s sentence is AFFIRMED.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 6, 2013 02:03 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions