Case against Liberty Mutual Insurance for PIP benefits is dismissed on procedural grounds
Darrell Christopher sued Liberty Mutual, an Indiana insurer and two individuals after suffering injuries in a car accident. For unexplained reasons, Christopher failed to respond to Interrogatories and did not appear for a deposition demanded by the Defendants. At some point, his original attorney withdrew and the case was temporarily placed on administrative stay. At a subsequent hearing, the case was dismissed with prejudice because it had not progressed in the twelve months it had been filed, due to Christopher's lack of participation in discovery.
Christopher appealed, arguing that the circumstances beyond his control, including the breakdown of his relationship with original counsel, that attorney's inadequate work, and the incarceration of another occupant of the vehicle, all contributed to the discovery failures and that permanent dismissal was too harsh a response. The Court not only rejected his appeal, two judges of the Court sanctioned his new attorney for filing an appellate brief that likened Christopher's treatment to a "lynching" or the "sneak attack on Pearl Harbor" and suggested that the insurance attorneys had "stolen" Christopher's case and should be "horsewhpped." The Court smacked Christopher's new attorney with $2,000.00 in sanctions for this display of invective and the argument that the trial judge was "brutal", acted "illegally" and "deserved a bit of a procedural lashing herself."Sadly, this kind of offensive, emotional argument tends to surface more often when the Courts are perceived more as an agent of money interests than an agent of justice. To his credit, Judge David Sawyer agreed with the dismissal of Christopher's case, found his attorney's argument to be tasteless and lacking in civility, but voted against awarding sanctions, since the insurer's expenses were not increased by the content of Christopher's insults.