Horejs v. Milford, 022119 INSC, 19S-CT-97

Docket Nº:19S-CT-97
Opinion Judge:David, Justice.
Party Name:James T. Horejs, James Harris, and Robert Horejs, as Co-Administrators of the Estate of Laura A. Shaner, Deceased Appellants (Plaintiffs below), v. Albert Milford, D.O., St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Centers, Inc., and TRC-Indiana LLC d/b/a Comprehensive Renal Care-Munster d/b/a DaVita, Inc. Appellees (Defendants below).
Attorney:ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS Timothy S. Schafer Timothy S. Schafer, II Todd S. Schafer Schafer & Schafer Merrillville, Indiana ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE ALBERT MILFORD, D.O. Jason A. Scheele Edward L. Murphy Rothberg Logan & Warsco LLP Fort Wayne, Indiana ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE ST. MARGARET MERCY HEALTH...
Judge Panel:Rush, C.J., and Massa, Slaughter, and Goff, JJ., concur.
Case Date:February 21, 2019
Court:Supreme Court of Indiana
 
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James T. Horejs, James Harris, and Robert Horejs, as Co-Administrators of the Estate of Laura A. Shaner, Deceased Appellants (Plaintiffs below),

v.

Albert Milford, D.O., St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Centers, Inc., and TRC-Indiana LLC d/b/a Comprehensive Renal Care-Munster d/b/a DaVita, Inc. Appellees (Defendants below).

No. 19S-CT-97

Supreme Court of Indiana

February 21, 2019

Argued: October 25, 2018

Appeal from the Lake Superior Court No. 45D11-0711-CT-195 The Honorable Diane Kavadias Schneider, Judge.

On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals No. 45A03-1709-CT-2173

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS Timothy S. Schafer Timothy S. Schafer, II Todd S. Schafer Schafer & Schafer Merrillville, Indiana

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE ALBERT MILFORD, D.O. Jason A. Scheele Edward L. Murphy Rothberg Logan & Warsco LLP Fort Wayne, Indiana

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE ST. MARGARET MERCY HEALTHCARE CENTERS, INC. Libby Yin Goodknight Krieg DeVault LLP Indianapolis, Indiana Shannon L. Noder Julie Ann Rosenwinkel Krieg DeVault LLP Merrillville, Indiana

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE TRC-INDIANA LLC Leslie B. Pollie Travis W. Montgomery Kopka Pinkus Dolin PC Carmel, Indiana

OPINION

David, Justice.

On occasion, a case arises that demonstrates the enduring importance of drafting a will. This is one such case. The present dispute arises out of a wrongful death suit initiated by David Shaner after his wife Laura's death due to complications with the administration of dialysis treatments. David sought two categories of damages contemplated by Indiana's wrongful death statute: damages related to medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses and additional damages including loss of consortium, lost earnings and wages, and loss of additional employment benefits. During litigation, David died intestate, leaving no immediately ascertainable heirs. Defendants, Dr. Albert Milford, St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Centers, Inc., and TRC-Indiana, LLC, moved for partial summary judgment on David's claim for damages related to loss of consortium, arguing any damages in excess of medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses would be punitive in nature because David left no heirs. The trial court granted the Defendant's motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

We grant transfer today to reverse the trial court's grant of partial summary judgment and hold that the wrongful death and survival statutes enable David's claim to survive regardless of the existence of an heir. Because we are not convinced the proper party is maintaining David's claim, however, we also instruct the trial court to determine whether there is a proper party to continue the action as contemplated by the relevant statutes.

Facts and Procedural History

In late 2005, Laura Shaner underwent surgery performed by Defendant Albert Milford, D.O. ("Milford") at St. Margaret Mercy Healthcare Center ("St. Margaret") in Dyer, Indiana, for the repair of an abdominal hernia. Unfortunately, complications arose after the surgery, which necessitated Laura's dialysis treatments at TRC-Indiana, LLC d/b/a Comprehensive Renal Care-Munster d/b/a DaVita, Inc. ("TRC"). Laura died on January 4, 2006, after problems from administration of the dialysis and was survived by her husband David Shaner.

David, individually and as Administrator of the Estate of Laura A. Shaner, brought suit against Milford, St. Margaret, and TRC, asserting Defendants were liable in negligence for Laura's death. David sought two categories of damages resulting from the wrongful death of Laura: "final- expense damages" including medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses, and "survivor damages" for the loss of consortium, including the loss of Laura's earnings and wages, and her services, love, affection, companionship, society, support, and protection. 1 While these claims were pending, David died intestate on October 30, 2015, leaving no known surviving heirs. David's estate escheated to the State of Indiana.

In 2016, Laura's father, James T. Horejs, was appointed successor administrator of Laura's Estate, and Laura's brothers, Robert Horejs and James Harris, were appointed as co-administrators (collectively "Horejs"). These co-administrators continued to claim both final-expense and survivor damages flowing from the wrongful death claim. TRC, joined by St. Margaret and Milford, moved for partial summary judgment on the survivor damages claim...

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