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Appellate court finds lawsuit brought in bad faith

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today for a fifth time on a contentious family dispute over the estate of deceased parents, affirming a small claims court judgment in favor of two of the siblings for damages and fees against their brother and his wife.

Obed Kalwitz Jr., his wife Rolene, and Obed Jr.’s siblings Eugene Kalwitz and Sharon Grieger have been involved in litigation since the death of their mother in 1995. They were in dispute over 331 acres of land that Obed Jr. had gotten his parents to transfer to him for only $40 and other issues. In the instant case, Obed Jr. and Rolene sued the siblings claiming they stole property from that 331 acres, which now belongs to Eugene and Sharon, who served as personal representatives of their parents’ estates. Obed Sr. died in 1989.

After years of litigation, the parties mediated their pending matters in October 2006. As part of the settlement agreement, Obed Jr. had 30 days to remove certain personal property from the estates. He filed an affidavit saying he removed all the property he wanted and forfeited the right to remove any other property on the 331 acres. Eugene and Sharon later discovered he had booby trapped the land.

More than a year after the judge discharged Eugene and Sharon as personal representatives and closed the estate, Obed Jr. and his wife filed the small claims action alleging his siblings stole items from the land that belonged to him. Eugene and Sharon counterclaimed for compensatory damages for abuse of process, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. The judge ruled in favor of the siblings, awarding them a total of $5,400.

In Obed Kalwitz, Jr., et al. v. Eugene Kalwitz, et al., No. 46A03-0912-CV-574, Obed Jr. and Rolene appealed the judgment, claiming the court erred by denying their request for a change of judge, determining that their claim was barred by res judicata, and by awarding damages and attorney’s fees to Eugene and Sharon.

The appellate judges found their change of judge request to be untimely. They filed their claim in February 2009, but didn’t file their request for a special judge until August. They also failed to personally verify, make allegations of when or how the cause was first discovered, or why they couldn’t have discovered the cause earlier as required by Indiana Trial Rule 76(C)(6).

Their claims are also barred by res judicata because their claim that the record doesn’t support a finding that a former judgment was rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction failed, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. Their argument that there’s no indication in the record that their claim was or could have been determined in the estate proceedings also failed.

Obed Jr. and Rolene also challenged five of the small claims court’s findings as being unsupported by the evidence, but the appellate court found their challenges were supported by the record. The judges also upheld the compensatory and punitive damages award, finding the couple acted with “malice and oppressiveness” and the award was imposed to deter further litigation.

The court also awarded appellate attorney’s fees and costs to Eugene and Sharon, concluding that Obed Jr. and Rolene’s appeal, “and indeed the entire lawsuit, was brought in bad faith and for purposes of harassment,” wrote Judge Vaidik. The matter was remanded for a determination of the amount of fees and costs.  
 

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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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