YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO (LFA) – When Judge Oscar Ruport of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio received his first filing in Yarp v. Whetner, it seemed like any other routine negligence case. Mabel Yarp, of Andover, Ohio, had sued Kimberly Whetner, of Espyville, Pa., over an alleged boating accident on Pymatuning Reservoir. Early filings into the diversity action, however, developed a rich set of facts and some novel legal questions. For one, both parties argued for competing contributory negligence standards based on the boat’s journey back and forth between the two states. Further, both parties were actually just different personalities of Lorraine Eydars, 46, who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID).
“This is the first case of its kind,” said Thomas Wenlock, a professor of civil procedure at Duke Law. “A lot of things have to get hammered out. Where was the boat at the time of the incident? Which law controls? And which personality was Lorraine Eydars when she was driving the boat and wrecked it?”
Ruport, acting with caution, initially directed the parties to file briefs establishing that they are actually diverse. Both Yarp and Whetner submitted affidavits from Eydars stating that she is only Yarp when in Andover and only Whetner when she crosses over into Espyville — so, in effect, each personality has residence in different states. Simple enough, but things got even more complicated when Whetner filed a cross-claim against William Feck as a third-party defendant. Feck is another of Eydars’ personalities residing in Ripley, N.Y.
“Although Feck was not in the boat at the time of the accident,” said Whetner’s brief, “he was the individual who purchased and registered the boat. His negligent failure to maintain the boat in satisfactory condition was a large factor in the incident.” Feck has yet to respond, as his personality has not surfaced within Eydars for months.
All three personalities have retained separate lawyers in the litigation. The attorneys report that extra precautions must be taken to ensure lawyer-client privilege at all times.
“You have to be careful,” said Lucas Thompsen, attorney for Yarp. “You want to make sure you’re talking to your client, and not another personality pretending to be your client.”
Ruport appears to be satisfied with the diversity requirements, having already set a discovery schedule. The current list of expected witnesses has soared to 39, every single one of which is a different personality within Ms. Eydars.
“I saw the whole thing, and Ms. Yarp is clearly at fault,” said eyewitness Ralph Henneson.
“That’s a load of horse-paw! I saw it all, and that Whetner lady done wrecked the whole darn ship!” said Ike “Rat Hat” Barnaby, moments later.
Ruport is expected to rule this week on a motion for interpleader by Wendy Roppel, an Eydars personality who says she was an innocent bystander injured in the wreck.