Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana
WEOC v. Adair
A fatal car crash led to a lawsuit against two Indiana restaurants that had served alcohol to the intoxicated driver responsible for the accident. The estate of the deceased sued the restaurants for negligence, arguing that they should have known the driver was visibly intoxicated and should not have allowed him to drive. The restaurants argued that the Indiana Dram Shop Act, which provides civil liability for establishments that serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals who later cause injuries, eliminated any independent common-law liability. Therefore, they contended that the negligence claim should be dismissed.The Indiana Supreme Court held that the Dram Shop Act did not eliminate common-law liability, but rather modified it. The court ruled that claims against establishments that serve alcohol must still satisfy the requirements of the Dram Shop Act, namely that the server must have actual knowledge of the individual's visible intoxication, and that the individual's intoxication must be a proximate cause of the injury or damage. The court found that the estate's negligence claim met these requirements and therefore, the negligence claim was valid and could proceed. The court affirmed the lower court's decision to deny the restaurants' motion to dismiss the negligence claim. View "WEOC v. Adair" on Justia Law
Morehouse v. Dux North LLC
In this case decided by the Indiana Supreme Court, plaintiff Dux North LLC, the owner of a landlocked property in rural Hamilton County, Indiana, sought an implied easement over adjacent property owned by defendants Jason and Sarah Morehouse. Dux North claimed either an implied easement by prior use or an implied easement of necessity over the Morehouse property. The court clarified that these two types of implied easements are conceptually different. For an implied easement by prior use, the claimed servitude must predate the severance creating the separate parcels. For an implied easement of necessity, the claimed necessity need to arise only at severance and not before. Thus, Dux North could seek relief under either implied easement, and the failure of one such easement does not necessarily defeat the other. Furthermore, the court held that an implied easement of necessity requires a showing that access to the property by another means is not just impractical but impossible. The court then reversed the trial court's judgment granting Dux North's motion for summary judgment on the easement-by-prior-use claim and denying the Morehouses' motion for partial summary judgment on the easement-of-necessity claim. The case was remanded for further proceedings to decide whether Dux North has an easement by prior use over the Morehouse property. View "Morehouse v. Dux North LLC" on Justia Law
Expert Pool Builders, LLC v. VanGundy
In the case before the Indiana Supreme Court, the defendant, Expert Pool Builders, LLC, appealed a default judgment entered by the trial court in favor of the plaintiff, Paul Vangundy. The default judgment was entered because Expert Pool failed to timely file a response to Vangundy's complaint. Expert Pool had opposed Vangundy's motion for a default judgment three times but a divided Court of Appeals panel concluded Expert Pool waived its challenge to the default judgment. The majority of the Court of Appeals interpreted a previous decision as requiring Expert Pool to reassert its argument in a Trial Rule 60(B) motion to set aside the judgment before it could obtain appellate review and dismissed the appeal.The Indiana Supreme Court, however, disagreed with the Court of Appeals. It held that Expert Pool did not need to file a Trial Rule 60(B) motion to preserve its right to appeal. It reasoned that once a party obtains a final ruling from the trial court, the party has preserved the issue for appellate review. The Court stated that Expert Pool had already presented its argument opposing default judgment before judgment was entered, so there was no need to file a post-judgment motion.On the merits of the case, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's entry of default judgment against Expert Pool. The Court held that Expert Pool's challenge to the default judgment required the Court to reweigh the evidence and rebalance the equities, something that its standard of review does not permit. The trial court concluded that the parties never agreed to extend Expert Pool’s deadline for a responsive pleading and that Expert Pool chose to ignore Vangundy’s complaint. Therefore, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision. View "Expert Pool Builders, LLC v. VanGundy" on Justia Law
DeCola v. Norfolk Southern Corporation, Inc.
In this case before the Indiana Supreme Court, Thomas DeCola, the appellant, filed a suit to quiet title after purchasing property owned by Norfolk Southern Corporation, the appellee, at a tax sale. The property had fallen into tax delinquency. DeCola sought judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Norfolk had not received proper notice of the tax sale, the petition for tax deed, or its right of redemption. The trial court converted DeCola's motion into one for summary judgment because it considered evidence outside the pleadings. In its detailed order, the trial court denied DeCola's summary judgment motion, finding the tax deed void due to lack of sufficient notice to Norfolk.DeCola appealed the denial of summary judgment, claiming it was a final order. However, the Indiana Supreme Court held that the trial court's order denying summary judgment was not a final judgment because it did not resolve all claims as to all parties. The Court stated that the order did not meet any of the five definitions of a "final judgment" as laid out in Rule 2(H) of the appellate rules. Therefore, the Court concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal.The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer, dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "DeCola v. Norfolk Southern Corporation, Inc." on Justia Law
National Collegiate Athletic Ass’n v. Finnerty
In this interlocutory appeal the Supreme Court declined to adopt the apex doctrine, which can prevent parties from deposing top-level corporate executives absent the requesting party making certain initial showings, holding that remand was required for the trial court to consider a motion for a protective order with the benefit of guidance set forth in this opinion.Plaintiffs sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) alleging that despite being aware of the consequences of repetitive head trauma, the NCAA failed to implement reasonable concussion-management protocols to protect its athletes, causing three former college football players to die from a neurodegenerative disease linked to repetitive head trauma. The NCAA moved twice for a protective order to prevent Plaintiffs from deposing three of its high-ranking executives. After the trial court denied the motions the NCAA sought discretionary interlocutory review, inviting the Supreme Court to adopt the apex doctrine. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) this appeal was properly before the Court; and (2) although the Court declines to adopt the apex doctrine, it establishes a framework that harmonizes its principles with the applicable trial rules to aid courts in determining whether good cause exists to prohibit or limit the deposition of a top-level official in a large organization. View "National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v. Finnerty" on Justia Law
In re Commitment of E.F.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of a panel of the court of appeals dismissing an appeal in this temporary commitment case on the grounds that the appeal was moot, holding that "public interest exception" to mootness applied.After a hearing, the trial court found E.F. was gravely disabled and entered a temporary commitment order allowing for her emergency detention. While E.F.'s appeal was pending, the commitment order expired. The court of appeals dismissed E.F.'s appeal as moot, interpreting T.W. v. St. Vincent Hospital & Healthcare Center, Inc., 121 N.E.3d 1039 (Ind. 2019), as disfavoring the practice of applying the public interest exception except in "rare circumstances." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that E.F. should have the opportunity to make certain arguments before the court of appeals. View "In re Commitment of E.F." on Justia Law
Solarize Indiana, Inc. v. Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co.
The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal brought by Solarize Indiana, Inc. seeking judicial review of the administration decision of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) approving two filings submitted by Vectren Energy Delivery of Indiana, Inc. under an expedited process known as the "Thirty-Day Rule," holding that Solarize lacked standing to bring this appeal.In objecting to Vectren's filings, Solarize, an organization that promotes the use of solar power in Indiana, asserted that the filings were not compliant with federal law. The IURC approved the filings, after which Solarize requested judicial review. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that Solarize lacked standing because it failed to show that it was "adversely affected" by the IURC's order. View "Solarize Indiana, Inc. v. Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co." on Justia Law
Riddle v. Cress
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting Defendants relief from a default judgment, holding that the trial court's assessments of the parties' credibility and demeanor were sufficient to establish at least "slight evidence" of excusable neglect.Plaintiff sued Defendants alleging that certain statements Defendants made constituted defamation and false reporting. Because Defendants did not enter appearances or respond to the complaint the trial court granted default judgment to Plaintiffs. The trial court granted Defendants' motion for relief from the default judgment, concluding that Defendants were sincerely confused about their obligation to respond. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that the trial court's fact-sensitive judgments showed that Defendants were entitled to relief. View "Riddle v. Cress" on Justia Law
Morrison v. Vasquez
In these two consolidated cases, the Supreme Court held that, for the purposes of determining preferred venue pursuant to Trial Rule 75(A)(4), the actual principal office of an organization with a location in the State of Indiana, and not the location of the organization's registered agent, is the appropriate preferred venue.Here, two Court of Appeals opinions regarding preferred venue with in conflict with one another. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed the trial court in one case and reversed the trial court in the other case, holding (1) a domestic organization's actual principal office and not the location of its registered agent is the appropriate preferred venue; and (2) in light of new business corporation statutes, the location of the registered agent no longer determines preferred venue for either domestic or foreign corporations. View "Morrison v. Vasquez" on Justia Law
O’Bryant v. Adams
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Indiana-resident defendants without prejudice, holding that the trial court erred in basing its dismissal on lack of personal jurisdiction but that dismissal was nevertheless warranted on the record.The parties in this case entered into an independent contractor agreement that contained a forum-selection clause providing that the parties agreed to litigate their disputes in Texas. Plaintiff later brought suit in an Indiana circuit court alleging breach of contract and fraudulent inducement. Defendants moved to dismiss under Trial Rule 12(B)(2). The court court dismissed the complaint without prejudice, concluding that the Indiana trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over the Indiana-resident defendants because the parties agreed to litigate their dispute in Texas. The Supreme Court affirmed but on different grounds, holding (1) the forum-selection clause was mandatory and unambiguous in requiring that suit be brought in Texas; and (2) Plaintiff failed to satisfy its burden of showing that the clause was invalid. View "O'Bryant v. Adams" on Justia Law