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Indiana Appeals Court Overturns Summary Judgment in Favor of Negligent Motorist

In Clifton v. McCammack, a 51-year-old man who lived with and cared for his elderly father was unfortunately killed in a motor vehicle collision while riding his moped. Not long after the crash occurred, the man’s father drove to the scene of the wreck after learning of a tragic moped collision on the news. While there, the elderly man observed his son’s body covered by a sheet. He also reportedly recognized both his son’s shoes and his moped. After becoming noticeably upset, the elderly man’s minister apparently came to the accident scene and drove him home.

About nine months later, the elderly man filed a negligent infliction of emotional distress lawsuit against the driver who allegedly caused the fatal collision. In her answer, the driver admitted to committing negligence but denied causing the elderly man’s emotional distress. Following discovery, the negligent driver filed a motion for summary judgment with the trial court. When such a motion is filed, a party to a lawsuit is asking the court to rule that no material facts are in dispute and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In general, such a motion is normally viewed in the light that is most favorable to the non-moving party.

According to the negligent driver, the father’s negligent infliction of emotional distress claim failed to meet the requirements enumerated in the Indiana bystander rule. In her motion, the negligent driver also sought to strike a number of handwritten witness statements taken following the tragic car accident. Although the elderly man opposed the driver’s motion for summary judgment, the trial court ruled in the driver’s favor. The elderly man asked the Court of Appeals of Indiana to review the case.

On appeal, the court examined the legal requirements for negligent infliction of emotional distress in Indiana. After examining the relevant case law, the Court of Appeals of Indiana dismissed the driver’s argument that the man’s father could not prove the essential elements of the cause of action. According to the court, the deceased man’s father met the relationship requirements of the bystander rule. He also witnessed the shocking aftermath of the traffic wreck without prior knowledge only minutes after his son’s unfortunate death. Since the father alleged severe emotional trauma that any reasonable person would have experienced under substantially similar circumstances, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the negligent driver.

If you were hurt or lost a loved one in a tragic, unexpected motor vehicle collision anywhere in Indiana, you need a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer on your side to help you recover the damages to which you may be entitled. To speak with an experienced Merrillville car accident attorney about your case today, call Theodoros & Rooth, P.C. at (219) 212-2462 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Clifton v. McCammack, Ind: Court of Appeals 2014