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Because Defendant’s affirmative actions at trial resulted in a violation of his right to an impartial jury, the invited-error doctrine required that Defendant’s conviction be affirmed. After a second trial, Defendant was found guilty of murder. During trial, defense counsel expressly agreed to the trial court’s constitutionally defective procedure for removing and replacing a juror after deliberations had begun. On appeal, Defendant argued that, despite his acquiescence, the court’s procedure violated his constitutional right to an impartial jury, thus resulting in reversible error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there is no reason to exempt structural errors from the invited-error doctrine; and (2) Defendant invited the error in this case as part of a deliberate trial strategy, and therefore, his conviction must be affirmed. View "Durden v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether an agreement between two children, executed before their father’s death, could be enforced using a chapter in the Probate Code providing for the adjudicated compromise of controversies. Father, who was terminally ill, asked his son and daughter to agree between themselves how they would divide some of his assets after his death. Before Father died, Son attempted to rescind the agreement. After Father died, Daughter sued to enforce the agreement as part of the probate process. The trial court found that the agreement was not a codicil to Father’s will and that Son rescinded the agreement. Accordingly, the court ordered the personal representatives to administer Father’s estate according to his will without reference to the agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order and findings, except for its alternative finding that Son rescinded the agreement, holding that the Probate Code chapter at issue may be used to enforce only post-mortem compromises. View "In re Supervised Estate of Gary D. Kent" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the term “others we protect” under a decedent’s employer’s commercial auto policy included the decedent. The decedent was killed by an uninsured driver while the decedent was mowing his home’s lawn near the roadside. The decedent’s estate sought uninsured motorist benefits, arguing that the decedent qualified for coverage under the employer’s commercial auto policy’s term “others we protect.” The insurance company denied the claim. The Supreme Court agreed with the insurance policy, holding (1) the term “others we protect” is unambiguous and impervious to judicial construction; and (2) accordingly, as a matter of law, the decedent did not qualify as “others we protect” under the policy when he was struck and killed by the uninsured motorist. View "Erie Indemnity Co. v. Estate of Brian L. Harris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

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In this involuntary civil commitment proceeding, the trial court accepted an invalid waiver of A.A.’s right to personal appear, and that error was not harmless. A.A.’s attorney waived A.A.’s right to appear, and the involuntary commitment hearing proceeded without him. The trial court ultimately ordered involuntary civil commitment. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to vacate the regular involuntary-commitment order, holding (1) a mentally competent civil-commitment respondent may relinquish the right to appear with a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver, but an attorney may not waive the right to appear on the respondent’s behalf; (2) if the trial court independently waives a respondent’s presence at a commitment hearing, it must do so at the outset of the proceeding; (3) an improper waiver determination is subject to harmless-error review; and (4) in this case, the trial court did not make a proper waiver finding at the outset of A.A.’s involuntary civil-commitment proceeding, and the error was not harmless. View "A.A. v. Eskenazi Health/Midtown CMHC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law

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The anti-SLAPP statute was inapplicable in this medical malpractice action filed by two minors and their parents against a doctor who reported suspected medical child abuse to the Department of Child Services (DSC). The doctor here argued that the lawsuit was a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) and that her report to DCS was protected speech shielded by Indiana’s anti-SLAPP statute. The trial court agreed with the doctor and dismissed the lawsuit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the anti-SLAPP statute was inapplicable because to be protected under the statute a person’s actions must be “in furtherance of” his or her right of petition or free speech and “in connection with a public issue” (see Ind. Code 34-7-7-5); and (2) because Plaintiffs’ lawsuit was not filed to stifle the doctor’s speech on a public issue but to recover damages for alleged medical malpractice, the suit was not the type of suit the anti-SLAPP statute was enacted to prevent. View "Gresk v. Demetris" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision to uphold the rulings of magistrates that issued a warrant to conduct a thermal-imaging search of a private residence and a warrant to search the physical premises, holding that probable cause supported both warrants. After conducting an investigation to corroborate an anonymous tip of a potential marijuana grow operation at a private residence, the police received a warrant to conduct a thermal-imaging search of the home. The evidence discovered in the search led the police to request the second warrant to search the premises. The search led to Defendant’s conviction for dealing in marijuana and marijuana possession. On appeal, Defendant argued that both warrants lacked probable cause based on uncorroborated hearsay in the underlying affidavits. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence in the first affidavit to corroborate the tipster’s allegation of criminal activity; and (2) the second affidavit contained sufficient information to establish probable cause under the collective-knowledge doctrine. View "McGrath v. State" on Justia Law

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Indiana’s post-conviction rules did not allow Petitioner to bring a challenge to a statute barring him, as a serious sex offender, from school property in a post-conviction proceeding because Petitioner was challenging a collateral consequence of his conviction instead of his conviction or sentence. In 2010, Petitioner pleaded guilty to child solicitation. Petitioner’s probation conditions made schools off-limits, but Petitioner received an exception for his son’s activities. In 2015, Indiana Code 35-42-4-14 made it a Level 6 felony for a “serious sex offender” to knowingly or intentionally enter school property, which resulted in Petitioner being forced to stop attending school events. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, arguing that the new statute was an unconstitutional ex post facto law. The post-conviction court denied relief. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the post-conviction rules excluded Petitioner’s claim, but they did not foreclose a declaratory-judgment action. View "Kirby v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for Defendants - a lawyer and his law firm - in this lawyer malpractice case, holding that Defendants failed to negate the causation element of Plaintiff’s malpractice claim. Plaintiff fell and severely fractured her legs while visiting her husband in the hospital. Plaintiff retained Defendants to represent her against the hospital, but Defendants failed to sue the hospital within the applicable statute of limitations. At issue was whether Plaintiff would have won her claim against the hospital had Defendants timely sued, thus establishing the second prong of the “trial-within-a-trial” doctrine. On appeal, both parties conceded that Plaintiff did not know of the tripping risk that she claimed caused her fall. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment for Defendants, holding that Defendants failed to establish, as a matter of law, that Plaintiff would not have succeeded in her premises-liability claim against the hospital, thus precluding summary judgment. View "Roumbos v. Samuel G. Vazanellis & Thiros and Stracci, PC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part Defendant’s sentence imposed in connection with his felony incest conviction, holding that one special sex offender probation condition imposed by the trial court was unreasonable as applied to Defendant. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) his three-year sentence was inappropriate, (2) two probation conditions (Conditions 8 and 26) were unreasonable and unconstitutional as applied to him because they created sweeping prohibitions on internet usage, and (3) one condition’s (Condition 8) prohibition on “certain web sites…frequented by children” was unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Court held (1) Condition 8 was constitutional as applied to Defendant; but (2) Condition 26, which barred Defendant from accessing the Internet without prior approval of his probation officer, was not reasonably related to Defendant’s rehabilitation and maintaining public safety. View "Weida v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Indiana law allows a judgment-creditor to garnish a cash bail bond the judgment-debtor posted in an unrelated criminal matter. Here, Plaintiff obtained a default judgment against Defendant in the superior court. While the judgment remained unsatisfied, Defendant was arrested in an unrelated criminal matter and posted a cash bond with the county clerk. Plaintiff attempted to garnish the cash bail bond, but the trial clerk, who was named as a garnishee-defendant in the civil case, released it to Defendant’s attorney. Plaintiff sought to hold the clerk liable. The trial court determined that the bond was not subject to garnishment and ruled against Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the clerk who holds the bond in a criminal case is an eligible garnishee-defendant in the civil case where the judgment was entered, and the bond is subject to the garnishment lien filed there; (2) the judgment-creditor may not recover on the bond until the criminal court releases it; and (3) in the instant case, the clerk was liable on the bond because she distributed its proceeds before the civil court determined Plaintiff’s right to them. View "Garner v. Kempf" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Criminal Law