COA reverses order requiring victim to pay attorney fees

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A man who claims he was struck by a vodka bottle that resulted in 18 stitches won’t have to pay attorney fees to a woman against whom he had been awarded a protective order, the Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, reversing a lower court order.

Richard Troy Dunno was granted a protective order on Dec. 22, 2011, a day after he told an Allen Superior magistrate that Ronalee Rasmussen hit him with the bottle. The P.O. was issued ex parte.

Dunno failed to appear at a hearing in February at which time the order was dismissed. Rasmussen presented evidence that she wasn’t the person responsible for the offense and asked the court for attorney fees, which were granted in the sum of $500. Prior to the appeal in Richard Troy Dunno v. Ronalee Rasmussen, 02A03-1207-PO-310, Dunno’s motions to correct error at the trial court failed.

“Dunno argues that “[a]llowing the trial court to award attorney fees against someone petitioning for a protective order would undoubtedly have a chilling effect and cause some victims of domestic violence to forgo making a legitimate plea for protection,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the unanimous panel. “Dunno also claims that the record does not support an attorney fee assessment under Ind. Code § 34-52-1-1(b).”

Finding that his claim was not frivolous or in bad faith, “We conclude that Dunno has made a prima facie showing that the award of attorney fees was improper,” Brown wrote. “We reverse the trial court’s judgment ordering Dunno to pay Rasmussen’s attorney fees.”



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