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Trial Court could not reserve issue of spousal maintenance after finding no evidence requiring it in final order

In a divorce case, the Trial Court found insufficient evidence so as to support a finding that Wife was entitled to maintenance (i.e. Indiana’s version of alimony). Wife later received ruling for Social Security appeal that she was in fact disabled and the Trial Court modified its final order.

The Court of Appeals disagreed with this approach, finding:

it is clear that a trial court is to determine whether a spouse is entitled to maintenance at the time the dissolution decree is entered. Ind. Code §§ 31-15-7-1, -2. Indiana Code Section 31-15-7-2(1) and (2) require the court to make certain findings, before it considers whether maintenance is necessary. The spouse seeking maintenance has the burden of proving that he or she is entitled to maintenance. Matzat v. Matzat, 854 N.E.2d 918, 921 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006). If, at the time of dissolution, the trial court finds that a spouse has not satisfied the statutory criteria entitling him or her to maintenance, then that is the end of the matter. The dissolution decree is final. Ind. Code § 31-15-2-16(b).

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/03251401tac.pdf.

Default judgment of $500k set aside where service narrowly defective

In injury case against the American Legion, the plaintiff made service through the sheriff who left copy of summons and complaint with registered agent’s address and then mailed them to the same address, which was not an abode or dwelling, first class. 

Manner of service failed to comply with Trial Rule 4 service on individuals or business entities and setting aside of default judgment was upheld.

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/02281401ewn.pdf.

IN CoA sua sponte denies interlocutory appeal for lack of jurisdiction due to untimeliness

In what is now the 9th published decision (State and Federal) emanating from the Mark S. Weinberger, M.D. saga, the Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed the interlocutory appeal of Lake County Judge, Calvin Hawkins’s grant of partial summary judgment. The trial court issued its order on Nov. 19, 2012. The plaintiff then filed a motion to reconsider on January 7, 2013. On April 3, 2013, the trial court entered a stipulated order denying the motion to reconsider and certifying the matter for interlocutory appeal. The order did not cite good cause for delay for filing for interlocutory appeal nor did it include any findings for good cause.

Despite the fact that neither party raised the issue of timeliness, the Appellate Court noted Indiana Appellate Rule 14(B) which provides:

A motion requesting certification of an interlocutory order must be filed in the trial court within thirty (30) days after the date the interlocutory order is noted in the Chronological Case Summary unless the trial court, for good cause, permits a belated motion. If the trial court grants a belated motion and certifies the appeal, the court shall make a finding that the certification is based on a showing of good cause, and shall set forth the basis for that finding.

Thus, even though the certification of interlocutory appeal went uncontested at all stages, the failure to follow this appellate procedure deprives the Appellate Court of jurisdiction to hear argument on the matter. Here, the motion to reconsider could not toll the limitations date and the trial court’s order lacked any findings to go beyond the 30 day deadline to file an interlocutory appeal. Thus, the appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/02181402cds.pdf.

Indiana v. IBM

Much as I try to provide analysis of an entire opinion with what time I have, I draw the line at 93 page opinions. Suffice it to say that, the IN CoA found that IBM materially breached its agreement to provide a working welfare infrastructure to the State but . . .

Despite finding a material breach on IBM’s part, we affirm the trial court’s award of $40 million in assignment fees and $9,510,795 in Equipment fees to IBM. We do so because the State and IBM agreed under the terms of the contract that the State would pay these fees. Further, the State would be unjustly enriched if it were to keep IBM’s  equipment and to assume IBM’s subcontracts without paying IBM. We further affirm the trial court’s denial of Deferred Fees to IBM, reverse the trial court’s award of $2,570,621 in Early Termination Close Out Payments and $10,632,333 in prejudgment interest to IBM, and remand the case to the trial court to determine the amount of fees IBM is entitled to for Change Orders 119 and 133. Finally, we remand the case to the trial court to determine the State’s damages for IBM’s material breach of the contract and to offset any damages awarded to IBM. We therefore affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand the case to the trial court.

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/02131403nhv.pdf.

Weinberger v. Estate of Barnes, et al. (12-18-13)

IN CoA (Friedlander; Baker & Vaidik concur)

In this case, a punitive damages verdict was entered against Defendant. The case was subsequently settled but the Indiana Attorney General intervened and opposed the dismissal of the case, using its stake in the punitive damages component as leverage.

In holding that the Attorney General could not intervene or forestall the settlement, the Court of Appeals stated that the State’s interest was limited to the 75% of the funds paid into the clerk’s office on the punitive damages judgment. Essentially, the State had no right to interfere with the settlement of the case and should never have been invited to the table, so to speak, in the first place. Even if there is collusion between the underlying parties to settle for an amount in excess of the compensatory judgment (which was not the case here), the Court noted the State still would not have an interest since the statute is aimed at reining in punitive damage judgments and not at providing a source of revenue for the State.

What does it mean? Any and all Plaintiffs with potential punitive damage claims have one less deterrent from seeking such an award from the jury.

(Disclaimer: I was personally involved with this case for nearly two years so if any personal bias becomes apparent, that is why.)

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/12181303ehf.pdf.

State Farm v. Earl (1-24-14)

CoA (Baker; Vaidik concurs and Riley dissents w/ sep. opinion). 

www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/01241401jgb.pdf.

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