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Appellate court dismisses small claims venue case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has determined that a small claims venue question is not on the list of authorized interlocutory appeals, so it dismissed a case arising out of southern Indiana.

In Amy and Steven Cerajewski v. Erin and Robert Kieffner, No. 82A01-1109-SC-401, the appellate court dismissed an interlocutory appeal after the plaintiff-appellant’s didn’t get approval first from Vanderburgh Superior Magistrate Judge Sheila M. Corcoran to certify the small claims case for appeal.

Erin and Robert Kieffner bought a Posey County home in 2010 from Amy and Steven Cerajewski, and the Cerajewskis moved to Michigan. Later that year, the Kieffners filed a small claims action in Vanderburgh County, where Erin had lived. The claim alleged breach of contract and fraud resulting from the real estate transaction.

The Cerajewskis filed a motion to transfer venue based on Indiana Trial Rule 75, saying that Vanderburgh County wasn’t the preferred venue. The trial court set a trial date and took the venue question under advisement, but the issue wasn’t decided by that trial date and the Cerajewskis didn’t appear. The small claims court entered a default judgment, but later set that aside and continued to deny the request for venue change.

Without asking for certification for appeal, the Cerajewskis filed an interlocutory appeal based on Indiana Appellate Rule 14(A)(8), which allows for interlocutory appeals as a matter of right for actions involving Trial Rule 75. However, the appellate court found that Trial Rule 75 doesn’t apply to a small claims venue.  Specifically, that rule says venue is proper in a small claims court when one of the defendants resides or has a place of employment at the time of the complaint.

Since the Cerajewskis failed to have the small claims court certify their appeal, the appellate panel dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.

 

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