Court dismisses INDOT appeal for not following procedure

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Department of Transportation and the State of Indiana had their appeal dismissed by the Court of Appeals today because of a technicality in following procedure.

In Indiana Department of Transportation and State of Indiana v Robert Howard, et al., 49A05-0701-CV-36, the Court of Appeals dismissed and remanded INDOT's appeal of the trial court's denial of their motion for summary judgment because INDOT did not have an interlocutory order certified by the trial court and accepted by the Court of Appeals as an interlocutory appeal.

The appeal stems from a case in which Amber Howard died when the vehicle she was driving on State Road 8 in LaPorte County went off the road and crashed in November 2002. At the time, the road was being resurfaced and paved by E&B Paving Inc., which bid on and was awarded the job by INDOT. Robert and Lynn Howard, as co-administrators of Amber's estate and individually, filed a complaint against INDOT and E&B Paving.

INDOT filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because it was not responsible for the negligence of E&B Paving. In August 2006, the trial court granted INDOT's summary judgment motion and INDOT's request to find there was no just reason for delay and direct entry of final judgment.

In response, the Howards and E&B Paving filed Trial Rule 59 motions to correct error with regard to the entry of summary judgment and in December 2006, the trial court entered an order granting relief to the Howards and E&B Paving. In the order, INDOT's motion for summary judgment was denied.

The Court of Appeals noted in the opinion that the parties proceeded under the assumption the trial court's denying INDOT's motion for summary judgment is a final appealable order under Trial Rules 54(B) and 56(C). An order denying summary judgment is not a final appealable order and can't be made into one under the trial rules 54(B) and 56(C), because no issues have been disposed of and no rights have been foreclosed by such an order, wrote Judge Margret Robb.

Instead, a party seeking a review of a denial of a motion for summary judgment must use an interlocutory appeal. INDOT had to first seek and obtain certification from the trial court authorizing an appeal from the interlocutory order and then have the Court of Appeals accept the appeal, which INDOT did not do. Because INDOT did not follow the correct procedure for brining an interlocutory appeal and this is not a final appealable order, the Court of Appeals ruled it did not have jurisdiction over the case and dismissed it and remanded it back to the trial court for further proceedings.

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