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Despite out-of-court agreement, COA upholds motion to strike

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The Indiana Court of Appeals encourages collegiality among attorneys when it comes to resolving issues outside of court, but it had to uphold the striking of documents because they were not timely filed with the trial court. The parties’ attorneys agreed to an extension of time to reply outside of court, but the trial court had no choice but to not allow the late reply.

In Mary Booher, et al. v. Sheeram, LLC, No. 20A03-1005-CT-338, Mary and Steve Booher sued Hampton Inn of Elkhart after Mary slipped in a bathtub and injured herself. The hotel had received earlier complaints that the tubs were slippery and coated the tubs with a non-skid surface, but that didn’t cover the entire bottom of the tubs. The coating did comply with safety standards.

The Boohers filed a negligence suit and requested through the courts and received two extensions of times to reply to Hampton Inn’s motion for summary judgment. After their second extension, their deadline to reply was Nov. 7, 2008.

But the Boohers’ expert needed more time to get his report together and was going to be out of the country until Nov. 7. The Boohers’ attorney also was preparing for major surgery on Oct. 24 and would be away for two weeks. The attorney’s legal assistant spoke with Hampton Inn’s attorney, who agreed to a three-week extension, but the Boohers never filed a formal request for an extension with the trial court. They submitted their material designation of facts and other documents Nov. 26.

Hampton Inn then filed a motion to strike, which the trial court granted based on Trial Rule 56. It later granted summary judgment for Hampton Inn.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the motion to strike based on the bright line rule set forth by the Indiana Supreme Court, which says a trial court “may exercise discretion and alter time limits under 56(I) only if the nonmoving party has responded or sought an extension within thirty days from the date the moving party filed for summary judgment.”

Chief Judge John Baker wrote that the appellate court encourages collegiality to solve issues outside of the courtroom, but in circumstances as what occurred in the instant case, parties must still seek formal relief directly from the trial court.

“We acknowledge, as did the trial court, that the Boohers’ attorney was working under extraordinarily difficult circumstances—an expert who was out of the country and unable to complete his report in a timely fashion together with a major surgery endured by counsel certainly constituted cause to extend the deadline by three more weeks,” he wrote. “Our proverbial hands are tied, however, inasmuch as our Supreme Court has made it clear that the trial court simply had no discretion to accept the untimely filed documents, regardless of the circumstances.”

The Court of Appeals also affirmed summary judgment for Hampton Inn because the Boohers failed to show Hampton Inn breached its duty to them.
 

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  • The Defense Lawyer's Fraudulent Conduct Rewarded
    My issue with this ruling is that the trial court struck the filing as a result of defense counsel filing a Motion to Strike after the agreement. Doing so rewards fraudulent conduct by an officer of the court. Had the court struck the filing "sui sponte", I would have no issue with the ruling.

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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