The verdict in the case filed against Clay Community School Corporation involving the alleged wrongful death of a Clay City student was overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals (ICA) Tuesday.
Because the trial court committed what was determined a reversible error in the jury instructions, a new trial was ordered in the matter of the wrongful death case of Kodi Braden Pipes.
On Nov. 19, 2003, Pipes collapsed while shooting free throws at an eighth-grade basketball practice at Clay City Jr.-Sr. High School. Although CPR was administered immediately, Pipes was pronounced dead after being transported to St. Vincent Clay Hospital.
Autopsy results determined Pipes died of post-myocarditis with myocardopathy, which is a weakening of the structure of the heart. At the time, Forensic Pathologist Dr. Roland Kohr reported it would be impossible to determine why the 13-year-old boy died.
Pipes' parents, Ronna Timberman and his father, John Pipes II, filed the wrongful death case against the Clay Community School Corporation in August 2006.
During Dec. 10-13, 2007, Special Judge Matthew L. Headley, Putnam County, presided over the jury trial in Clay Superior Court. It took three hours for the jury members to award a $425,000 judgment in favor of Pipes' parents.
After the ruling, the school corporation filed a motion to correct errors in the case, which was denied.
According to paperwork filed by the ICA Dec. 2, the school corporation then appealed the case to the ICA, contending the trial court abused its discretion in the final jury instructions.
Although several instructions were brought into question, one stood out as "the proverbial can of worms."
In jury instruction No. 20, the trial court informed jurors a child between 7- to 14-years-old is presumed by Indiana law to be incapable of contributory negligence for their actions.
The ICA examined Indiana case law to conclude that state law doesn't conclusively contain a presumption either in favor or against whether 7- to 14-year-olds can be found liable for negligent acts.
The appeal also included the omission of the parents from the jury's consideration of their contributory negligence in Pipes' death.
According to the ICA judges, the trial court misstated Indiana law in this matter.
As a result, the appellate court reversed the trial court verdict and remanded the case for a new trial because it was unable to determine whether the 2007 verdict would have been the same despite the erroneous instruction.
When contacted by The Brazil Times, Judge Mathew L. Headley confirmed an attorney's conference would be scheduled to arrange a new trial date for the matter.