In­di­ana Supreme Court hears Lake County wrong­ful death case

Woman died af­ter her­nia surgery, hus­band then died be­fore law­suit could be re­solved

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Becky Ja­cobs Post-Tri­bune

When a High­land woman died af­ter her­nia surgery, her hus­band filed a wrong­ful death law­suit.

The man, how­ever, died be­fore the case was re­solved, and at­tor­neys are try­ing to fig­ure out what dam­ages still can be col­lected.

The In­di­ana Supreme Court heard oral ar­gu­ments Thurs­day in the civil case stem­ming from Lake County.

Ti­mothy Schafer, the at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Laura Shaner’s es­tate, ar­gued that Shaner’s med­i­cal providers should still have to pay for the dam­ages her hus­band ex­pe­ri­enced as a sur­vivor af­ter his wife’s death.

“There is no jus­ti­fi­able rea­son why the de­fense should be able to avoid ac­count­abil­ity for the harms they caused to David Shaner over the nearly 10 years he lived with­out his wife due to the neg­li­gence of the de­fen­dants,” Schafer said.

But Libby Good­knight, the at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the med­i­cal providers — Al­bert Mil­ford, St. Mar­garet Mercy Health­care Cen­ters and TRC-In­di­ana — said at oral ar­gu­ments that be­cause David Shaner had no heirs and no will, any money paid for sur­vivor dam­ages would go to the state. Th­ese dam­ages are meant to com­pen­sate sur­vivors, “not to pun­ish the de­fen­dants,” Good­knight said.

Laura Shaner, 44, died in Jan­uary 2006. In the wrong­ful death suit, David Shaner re­quested is­sue is “what hap­pens when the sur­vivor who would have col­lected the sur­vivor dam­ages has ceased be­ing a ‘ sur­vivor,’ ” the “dam­ages for the loss of dede­ci­sion stated. ce­dent’s earn­ings and wages, loss “It’s a ter­ri­bly unfortunate cirof the rea­son­able value of de­cum­stance, but hope­fully doesn’t ce­dent’s ser­vices and the loss of hap­pen very of­ten,” Jus­tice love, af­fec­tion, com­pan­ion­ship, Steven David said Thurs­day. so­ci­ety, sup­port and pro­tec­tion To col­lect “sur­vivor dam­ages,” pro­vided by dece­dent,” court reSchafer ar­gued that David Shaner cords state. is “only re­quired to sur­vive his

David Shaner first had to file a wife.” med­i­cal mal­prac­tice claim to a “Why would the fact that med­i­cal re­view panel be­fore he David Shaner died with­out a will could pro­ceed in court, ac­cord­ing re­lieve a health care provider for to Schafer. Be­fore his case was their neg­li­gent acts?” Schafer com­pleted, David Shaner died­

Oc­to­ber 2015. M ed­i­cal mal­prac­tice cases

“Iron­i­cally, the death of David tend to take roughly seven years, was also ac­cel­er­ated by his wife’s Schafer said, and “there’s al­ways death be­cause af­ter her death he de­lays.” was lonely and couldn’t af­ford to “We have to pro­tect the citilive on his own, forc­ing him to zens of In­di­ana. ... We have to move in with his mother where make sure the wrong­do­ers are he died of car­bon monox­ide held ac­count­able for it and do not poi­son­ing,” Schafer said. get the ben­e­fit of un­timely death,”

Af­ter David Shaner died, the Schafer said. at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing Laura Th­ese types of cases where a Shaner’s med­i­cal providers ar­sur­vivor dies and there are no gued that the new rep­re­sen­ta­heirs are “quite rare,” Good­knight tives for her es­tate, her broth­ers said. and fa­ther, should be lim­ited only The dam­ages aren’t meant to to fi­nal-ex­pense dam­ages. pro­tect the gen­eral pub­lic or to be

The In­di­ana Court of Ap­peals puni­tive to the de­fen­dants, but agreed with the providers. In­di­are in­stead meant to com­pen­sate ana’s wrong­ful death statute es­spe­cific heirs, she said. tab­lishes two cat­e­gories for dam“Re­gard­less of what dam­ages ages, ac­cord­ing to the ap­peals are re­cov­ered, no­body is go­ing to court’s de­ci­sion. be able to com­pen­sated or made

“Fi­nal-ex­pense dam­ages” in­whole from those dam­ages. They clude items, such as med­i­cal, would sim­ply pass to the state, fu­neral, burial and es­tate ad­min­which is con­trary to re­ally what is­tra­tion ex­penses, the de­ci­sion the in­tent of the wrong­ful death stated. “Sur­vivor dam­ages” in­act was,” Good­knight said. clude items, such as lost earn­ings of a per­son who died, ac­cord­ing to the de­ci­sion.

In the case of the Shan­ers, the

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