Benkie & Crawford Case History

Our firm fought for punitive damages in wrongful death cases in Indiana.
Allowing punitive damages for someone who is injured and not for someone who is killed defies logic and results in a lack of symmetry in the law.  Death is, after all, the final injury, the ultimate insult.  

Durham v. U-Haul, 745 N.E.2d 755 (Ind. 2001) was an Indiana Supreme Court decision following an Indiana Court of Appeals decision, 722 N.E.2d 355 (Ind. App. 2000) wherein the Indiana Court of Appeals held that punitive damages should be allowed in cases of wrongful death, based on public policy.   The Indiana Supreme Court agreed with the policy considerations of the Indiana Court of Appeals in allowing punitive damages for wrongful death but held that it was within the province of the Legislature to make this decision and that until the Legislature decides that punitive damages are recoverable for wrongful death they will not be allowed in Indiana.

Our firm helped change an Indiana Department of Transportation policy for safer highways.

In this same case, Durham v. U-Haul, Marion County Superior Court 10, Civil Division, cause number  49D10-9704-CT-0504, Plaintiffs alleged that an asphalt bituminous divider was insufficient in separating traffic in a construction zone on our interstates and Indiana finally adopted a policy which now prohibits the use of bituminous dividers on our interstates in construction zones. Indiana now uses a concrete barrier which arguably saves lives. 

The following additional cases involved appeals handled by the firm of BENKIE & CRAWFORD in medical malpractice cases involving death and serious injury.

Forte v. Connerwood Healthcare, 745 N.E.2d 796 (Ind. 2001)

Kennedy v. Murphy, 659 N.E.2d 506 (Ind. 1995)  Successful appeal of a medical malpractice case through the Indiana Supreme Court involving the standard for summary judgment. 

Personal Injury Case History

Wrongful death claim successfully resolved

Benkie & Crawford successfully litigated the wrongful death claim of Francis Radwan against a large company (the company must remain confidential pursuant to the settlement agreement) which rents vehicles to the public.

Court expands the reach of wrongful-death claims

The appellate court’s ruling Thursday recognized the judges were going against previous court decisions. But the judges said they were recognized the national trend in which 27 states now allow punitive damages in wrongful-death claims. They also said the idea of not allowing punitive monetary awards in a case involving death is illogical.

“We cannot perpetuate the adage that it is cheaper to kill than to maim, ” the ruling said. Attorney Scott Benkie, who represents the plaintiffs in Thursday’s ruling – the children and husband of Kathy Wade – was pleased the court decided to take the new legal stance.   

“I consider this a very draconian law, and I think it was time for it to be changed,” Benkie said. “It’s very easy to go on and not allow law to change with society.”

– The Indianapolis Star, January 15, 2000

Man who lost family sues Daimler Chrysler in crash worthiness case

Benkie and Crawford filed suit on behalf of Les Bublitz who lost his wife and 6-month-old son, Nathaniel Bublitz, and successfully litigated Mr. Bublitz’s claims against Daimler Chrysler on the basis of a defective latch gate which caused his wife and son to be ejected from the minivan. The settlement with Daimler Chrysler is significant but must remain undisclosed pursuant to a confidentiality agreement.

Cromwell woman killed in U.S. 6 crash

The firm of Benkie & Crawford successfully represented the family of Virginia Wallace and even though Virginia had no husband and only adult children, the firm was able to negotiate a $400,000 settlement on behalf of the family.

– Goshen News, August 22, 1997

Man who lost his wife, son in car chase sues
An Indianapolis man who lost his wife and 7-month-old son in an interstate crash with a robbery suspect sued area police Monday, alleging they were reckless in their use of tire deflation sticks during a high-speed chase.

Plaintiff’s counsel believe the various officers involved had enough time that they could have decided on a safer option for apprehending the suspect, Kevin James.

“The best judgment would be that you don’t deploy stop sticks on I-465 in dense traffic,” Benkie said. The lawsuit also states the Bublitzes’ rights were violated because the Sheriff’s Department has no written policies on the deployment of the tire deflation devices.

“I think first of all they need to have a written policy that should give them guidance on when the stop sticks should be deployed,” Benkie said.

– The Indianapolis Star, February 17, 1999

Teen killed in collision of pickup truck, semi

The firm of Benkie & Crawford successfully litigated on behalf of the surviving parents of J.J. O’Daniel who was killed when the truck he was driving was run off the road by another vehicle and struck by a semi-tractor trailer. The significant settlement amount is confidential pursuant to the settlement agreement.

– The Indianapolis Star, July 29, 1998

Business Litigation Case History

Raider plots Posner blitz – Local businessman wants firm owned by ’80s takeover kingpin

“One of the strongest memories of high-living corporate raider Victor Posner is when Posner walked into a meeting room several years ago with two Uzi-toting body guards at his side. That was during Posner’s heyday, when he bought and sold companies like toys and before he and a fellow 1980s corporate raiders Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky were convicted of violating federal securities laws.

A small Indianapolis company is poised to strip Posner of control of one of his few remaining companies: Miami-based National Vulcanized Fiber Corp., or NVF, which is in the midst of Chapter II proceedings. There is a proposed reorganization plan for NVF that would topple Posner and reinvigorate the company. It generated annual sales of 30 million.

Last year, NVF, with 1,000 employees, had sales of $100 million.

NVF manufactures containers, rubberized fibers and plastic laminates in plants in Yorklyn and Wilmington, Del; Kennett Square, PA; Hartwell, GA; Holyoke, MA; Broadview, IL; and Toronto.

‘Attorney Scott Benkie, in Indianapolis, thinks the request to hold a shareholder meeting has a strong chance of gaining Walsh’s approval.

Part of Benkie’s optimism is based on the earlier ruling that bars the Posners from participating in public companies (and losing control). He said he also hopes Walsh will be influenced enough by the spirit of the ruling to decide Posner would drain NVF if he were allowed to take it private.'”

– The Indianapolis Business Journal, – November 21-27, 1994

NVF shareholder proposal would inject $7.5 million – Reorganization plan leaves ousted chief with nothing

Scott Benkie of Benkie & Crawford has successfully represented shareholders who have a significant stake in publicly held corporations and has vigorously pursued litigation in other states, including Delaware, involving large publicly held corporations with assets exceeding $100,000,000.

– Bloomberg Business News, – August 8, 1994

No trial in police battery case – Woman is suing for false arrest

“Kelley Housemyer expected to be in Municipal Court this morning, facing trial on criminal charges that accuse her of battery against an Indianapolis police officer and resisting arrest. The officer accused her of bending his index finger backwards as he leaned on her car to talk to her. In her civil rights actions, Housmyer said the officer assaulted her and then arrested her on trumped-up charges that cover up his own abuse.”

“I think he just lost his temper,” said Benkie. “He reached right into the car, and she was absolutely petrified.”

“Housmyer was looking forward to the trial, prosecutors were not.”

– The Indianapolis Star, June 26, 1991

The firm of Benkie & Crawford has also fought for the civil rights for our citizens through federal civil rights laws.