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Indiana law is specific in claims of wrongful death

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The 411 News

“It will be an uphill battle to uncover what happened that day,” Atty. Trent McCain said about the wrongful death of a child lawsuit Vicki Olds is bringing against the pastors of Munster’s Family Christian Center. Atty. McCain is Old’s attorney in the lawsuit.

McCain said the pastors were in communication with Olds until July 2016 when Olds was allowed to view a video recording Schererville detectives obtained from security cameras at the Munsey home on the day of Domonique’s drowning. “After that she had questions, but the Munseys stopped talking,” he said.

During a press conference November 17, held at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point and on the day of the lawsuit’s filing, Olds said she believed the video was altered because about 15 minutes of the recording was missing.

McCain said, “Olds had been very patient, but her patience has run out. The only way to examine the video is through a lawsuit. We want to interview witnesses. We want to depose the Munseys under oath and have them tell us what happened. And we want to get law enforcement involved.”

Domonique ‘Nikki’ Smith, Olds’ 18-year-old daughter, died after she was found, floating face down in the swimming pool of the Schererville home of pastors Stephan and Melodye Munsey. Smith was found unresponsive in the pool on May 29, 2015 and was declared dead 3 days later.

The lawsuit states that Smith was a Family Christian Center member who worked at the church and was a babysitter in the pastors’ home for their granddaughter. Named as defendants, along with the pastors, are the Indiana Land Trust Company, which owns the Munsey’s home in Schererville; Darryl Smith, Domonique’s father; and the Family Christian Center church.

Indiana allows 3 types of claims in its Child Wrongful Death statute. A parent or guardian can claim loss of child’s services, loss of love and companionship, and expenses and debts arising out of the child’s death such as medical care, hospital bills, and burial. The statute does not permit punitive damages against the defendant but damages under the loss of love and companionship claim can be awarded until the death of the parent or guardian.

Atty. McCain said the Munseys did not contribute to Smith’s medical care and expenses that arose from her death.

The lawsuit cites negligence by all defendants except the father, Darryl Smith. He was included as a co-defendant to answer as to his interest. If he chooses, he has the right to join his ex-wife Vicki Olds in her lawsuit. “Defendants, except Smith, owed a duty of care to Domonique and others invited to use the Wilderness Drive property’s swimming pool, but instead of fulfilling their duty of reasonable care to supervise and watch over the Plaintiff known to be swimming in the pool, Defendants, except Smith, were reckless, negligent, and failed entirely to supervise the persons swimming in the pool.”

Her death was determined as an accidental drowning by the Lake County coroner. The lawsuit states, “According to Nikki’s toxicology screening, she tested negative for drugs or alcohol. According to her medical records, water was not present in Nikki’s lungs.” Because Domonique had selected to be an organ donor, there was no autopsy. And the lawsuit notes she was an excellent swimmer and had earned lifeguard certification.

McCain said the defendants have 20 days to respond to the suit.


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