Madison schools must face injured student’s suit, COA rules

Madison Consolidated Schools on Wednesday lost an appeal of a summary judgment denial in a lawsuit brought by a former student who was injured in a school bus crash.

Trisha Thurston was a 16-year-old student passenger who was severely injured when a Madison school bus hit a guardrail on Interstate 64 in Floyd County in September 2014. The school’s insurer, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, had been in contact with Thurston’s mother since about claims and resolving them. Representatives recommended “waiting until (Trisha’s) treatment had been completed before discussing settlement of her claim” and continued instructing her mother that the claim needed to be resolved by April 17, 2018.

The day before that, Thurston filed the instant litigation, Madison Consolidated Schools v. Trisha Thurston, 19A-CT-797. The schools moved for summary judgment, arguing that Thurston had never filed a required notice under the Indiana Tort Claims Act, but Thurston responded such notice was unnecessary because Liberty had led her to believe that. Thurston argued Madison should be estopped from asserting noncompliance with the ITCA.

The Floyd Circuit Court denied Madison’s motion for summary judgment, which the COA affirmed.

“The evidence clearly reflects that Thurston and her mother attempted to work with Liberty

Mutual and relied on their instructions and assurances, rather than filing a notice of tort claim,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the panel. “… (W)e conclude that the trial court properly denied Madison’s motion for summary judgment as there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether Madison should be estopped from asserting Thurston’s non-compliance with the notice requirements of the ITCA.”

This article was first published by The Indiana Lawyer.

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