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Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, so far

In Virginia E. Alldredge and Julia A. Luker, as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Venita Hargis v. The Good Samaritan Home, Inc., a 14-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Massa writes:

Nearly two centuries ago, Justice Stephen C. Stevens observed: “the wisest of judges have had much trouble in wading through the labyrinth of difficulties, discriminations, technicalities and shades that have gathered around the statute of limitations.” Raymond v. Simonson, 4 Blackf. 77, 84 (Ind. 1835).1 Although the case before us concerns the statutory filing period of a non-claim statute rather than a statute of limitation, we find Justice Stevens’s metaphor equally applicable here, where plaintiffs appeal the trial court’s determination that their wrongful death claim was untimely filed. Ultimately, we navigate this labyrinth and conclude we must reverse the trial court. * * *

Plaintiffs argue the Fraudulent Concealment Statute requires they be given two years after the discovery date to file their wrongful death claim. Defendant contends the Wrongful Death Act’s two-year filing period is a condition precedent to the existence of the claim and thus not susceptible to tolling under any circumstance whatever. The interaction of these two statutes presents us with an issue of first impression. * * *

Based upon our review of the historical and precedential records, we conclude that if a plaintiff makes the necessary factual showing, the Fraudulent Concealment Statute may apply to toll the Wrongful Death Act’s two-year filing period. In so holding, we break very little new ground. * * *

Public policy considerations further bolster our conclusion. Were we to hold otherwise, we would be incentivizing fraud and thus thwarting the obvious purpose of the Fraudulent Concealment Statute. And our decision today is consistent with that of courts in other jurisdictions, which have routinely found fraud may toll a statutory filing period even when it is a condition precedent to the existence of the claim rather than a statute of limitation. * * *

We therefore reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Good Samaritan and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with our opinion today.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 3, 2014 09:41 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions