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Indiana Supreme Court Clarifies Pre-Trial Interest Statute Requirements and Trial Court's Discretion to Award


An infant underwent surgery, and two days later he died. His mother sued the doctor who performed the surgery for medical malpractice. The original suit was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. The plaintiff’s counsel sent the defendant an offer of settlement containing a time limit to reply. A new suit was filed a little less than three years after the settlement letter was sent. A jury entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $1,165,000. The plaintiff moved for pre-trial interest. The trial court denied the motion because the settlement letter did not comply with the requirements of the pre-trial interest statute.

 

In a set of companion cases the Supreme Court of Indiana held that under the pre-trial interest statute a written settlement offer must be made within one year following the filing of a claim to be eligible for prejudgment interest. Nevertheless, a settlement offer can also be made prior to the filing of a lawsuit. Therefore, the plaintiff’s settlement offer was timely. Additionally, the plaintiff’s settlement complied with the content requirements of the pre-trial interest statute because it contained a time limit to reply. In this case, the trial court should have considered awarding pre-trial interest.

 

However, the trial court is not required to award pre-trial interest. The prejudgment interest statute grants the trial court broad discretion to determine when an award of prejudgment interest is warranted. Here, the trial court abused its discretion by misinterpreting the prejudgment interest statute when it found that the letter did not comply with it. On remand, the trial court should determine whether or not the plaintiff should be entitled to prejudgment interest.

 

See: Alsheik v. Guerrero, 2012 WL 6190301 (Ind., December 12, 2012) (not designated for publication).

 

See the Companion Cases:

  • Wisner v. Laney, 2012 WL 6189048 (Ind., December 12, 2012) (not designated for publication).
  • Inman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2012 WL 6189014 (Ind., December 12, 2012) (not designated for publication).
  • Kosarko v. Padula, 2012 WL 6189136 (Ind., December 12, 2012) (not designated for publication).

 

 

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