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Indiana Supreme Court Affirms Rebuttable Presumption

Updated March 24, 2019 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

On November 30, 2009, the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the plaintiff in the wrongful death case of Clay City Consolidated School Corp. v. Ronna Timberman and John Pipes II. The recent ruling affirmed a lower court’s ruling in favor of the family of a boy who died during basketball practice.

Case Details

Kodi Pipes had blacked out during a previous basketball practice and was not cleared by the doctor to participate. He later participated in a running drill in which he collapsed and died. The family filed suit against Clay City schools, alleging that the school was negligent under the Indiana child wrongful death statute.

The trial court’s verdict found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded the Pipes family damages. Later, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling in the case and ordered a new trial, ruling that the trail court had erred by instructing the jury that Indiana law recognized a rebuttable presumption of law for children ages 7 to 14.

Rebuttable Presumption

Rebuttable presumption is, in general, a situation in which an assumption made by a court is considered true unless it is challenged and proved otherwise. The rebuttable presumption in this case was that a minor between the ages of 7 and 14 years old cannot legally be held accountable for negligence, though this presumption can be challenged under certain circumstances.

Had the jury found the boy negligent, the affirmative defense of contributory negligence would have barred any chance for recovery. In this case, it is fortunate that the Indiana Supreme Court reaffirmed that Indiana does indeed recognize a rebuttable presumption for minors of this age and reversed the appellate court’s ruling.

Under Indiana law, contributory negligence can serve as a complete bar to recovery in a tort claims act case. If a defendant is a medical provider or government institution, a finding of contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff could prevent any and all recovery of damages. However, because the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the rebuttable presumption for a minor, Kodi was found free of negligence. The appellate court ruling was overturned and the original trial court’s ruling was affirmed, allowing the Pipes family to recover damages.

Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney Today

If your loved one died as a result of negligence, you are urged to contact an Indianapolis wrongful death lawyer from Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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