Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Cahoon v. Cummings case brief

Cahoon v. Cummings case brief summary
734 N.E.2d 535 (2000)

All parties petitioned to transfer, on appeal from Tippecanoe Superior Court (Indiana), after jury found for plaintiff in medical malpractice action but trial court denied prejudgment interest against defendant doctor's estate while awarding it against remaining defendant.

Plaintiff widow sued defendant doctors for negligence after her husband died of esophageal cancer 18 months after being diagnosed with reflux esophagitis and a hernia. Defendants admitted breach of the duty of care but each denied proximate cause. A jury found for plaintiff but the court denied her motion for prejudgment interest against the estate of a defendant who died during the case. All parties appealed and sought transfer.


  • The supreme court reversed and remanded for new trial, concluding the trial court correctly applied the Mayhue causation standard in the wrongful death context, election of remedies did not preclude plaintiff's pursuing both wrongful death and survivor actions
  • The challenged jury instruction and evidentiary rulings were not improper, but it was reversible error to instruct the jury to award full rather than proportional damages on finding defendants' negligence was a substantial factor in death and not to award prejudgment interest against both defendants.

Supreme court granted transfer and reversed judgment of trial court, remanding for new trial, holding damages were to be measured in proportion to increased risk, not by full extent of ultimate injury. Admitting evidence regarding altering of medical records was not improper. Trial court erred in concluding plaintiff was not entitled to prejudgment interest against both defendants.

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