Driver that had Massive Heart Attack Not Reasonably Foreseeable to Survive Negligence Claim
While driving to Bloomington for Thanksgiving with Wanda Denson as a passenger in his vehicle, Delmer Dillard suddenly declared he was not feeling well, slumped over and passed out. The vehicle he was driving then crashed into a house off State Road 252 near Morgantown, severely injuring Denson, resulting in more than $400,000 in medical bills. Dillard died at the scene and was later confirmed to have suffered a massive heart attack while driving.
Dillard had suffered another heart attack six weeks earlier and was prescribed home health care. A follow-up appointment found Dillard was doing well with no chest pain. He was not informed by medical professionals that he was unable to drive based on hospital records, cardiologist notes, stress test, and functional capacity.
Five months after the accident, Denson filed a negligence complaint against the Dillard’s estate and further sought uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits from her own automobile insurer. The estate defended that Dillard was faced with a sudden medical emergency which was so imminent as to leave no time for deliberation or action. The Indiana Trial Lawyers Association also joined the case on Denson’s behalf.
Both sides filed motions for summary judgment. A trial court entered judgment in favor of the Dillard estate. Denson then filed an appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals. This appeal was also not successful and the Court ruled in favor of the Dillard estate.
The Court of Appeals relied on the fact that Mr. Dillard was not restricted from driving nor was warned that a major heart attack could occur while driving. There was also no evidence that Dillard suffered any symptoms prior to his decision to drive on November 20, which would have alerted him of the impending physical incapacity.