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Opinions Dec. 19, 2012

December 19, 2012
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7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Norman W. Bernstein, et al. v. Patricia A. Bankert, et al. and Auto Owners Mutual Insurance Co.
11-1501, 11-1523
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, Chief Judge Richard L. Young.
Civil. Reverses dismissal of counts I, II, III and VII. In Count I, the trustees have made a timely CERCLA claim, under 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a)(4)(B), to recover costs incurred pursuant
to the 2002 AOC. The trustees’ Count II “companion claim” for a declaratory judgment of CERCLA liability is therefore also reinstated. Finds that the Indiana ELA claim contained in Count III is timely, and that the declaratory judgment claim contained in Count VII is not
moot. The District Court committed no abuse of discretion in its handling of the summary judgment briefing process. Finally, affirms the District Court’s denial of Auto Owners’ motion for summary judgment on preclusion grounds. The trustees’ suit is reinstated and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Indiana Supreme Court
John Kimbrough, III v. State of Indiana
45S04-1212-CR-687
Criminal. Grants transfer and affirms aggregate sentence of 80 years for multiple convictions of Class A felony child molesting. Because the trial court correctly entered its sentencing statement in compliance with the dictates of Anglemyer and because the “appropriateness” of a sentence has no bearing on whether a sentence is erroneous, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing Kimbrough’s sentence. Further, Kimbrough did not seek review and revision of his sentence under Indiana Appellate Rule (7)(B).

Abby Allen and Walter Moore v. Clarian Health Partners, Inc.
49S02-1203-CT-140
Civil tort. Affirms trial court grant of Clarian’s motion to dismiss a putative class-action complaint alleging breach of contract and seeking a declaration that rates the hospital billed were unreasonable and unenforceable. Holds the patients’ agreement to pay “the account” in the context of Clarian’s contract to provide medical services is not indefinite and refers to Clarian’s chargemaster. Because patients’ complaint states no facts on which the trial court could have granted relief, the court properly granted Clarian’s motion to dismiss.

Hugh David Reed v. Edward Reid; Reid Machinery, Inc.; North Vernon Drop Forge, Inc.; Jennings Manufacturing Co., Inc.; Reid Metals, Inc.; Glen White; Douglas Dibble; et al.

40S01-1107-PL-436
Civil plenary. Affirms in part and reverses in part regarding summary judgment motions on Hugh David Reed’s complaint seeking damages against multiple parties on multiple grounds, including a claim for an environmental legal action after a steel fabrication company deposited solid waste onto his property. Remands for further proceedings.

Indiana Court of Appeals
Stephen W. Robertson, Ins. Comm. of the State of Indiana, on behalf of the Indiana Dept. of Ins. v. Ticor Title Ins. Co. of Florida, n/k/a Chicago Title Ins. Co.
49A02-1110-PL-971
Civil plenary. Reverses trial court’s reversal of the administrative order directing Ticor to refund excessive premiums, pay unpaid premium taxes, and establish an internal control process to ensure the appropriate premium is charged to Ticor customers. The Indiana Department of Insurance’s interpretation of the rate statute was reasonable and the administrative hearing officer’s findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence. Remands for proceedings consistent with the opinion.

LBM Realty, LLC, d/b/a Summer Place Apartments v. Hillary Mannia
71A03-1205-PL-231
Civil plenary. Reverses grant of Mannia’s motion to dismiss LBM’s claims of breach of contract and negligence regarding a fire. Because Indiana law does not currently preclude a landlord’s insurer from bringing a subrogation claim against a tenant and because the allegations in LBM’s complaint establish a set of circumstances under which it would be entitled to relief, LBM’s complaint states claims upon which relief could be granted. Remands for further proceedings.

Larry Garmon v. State of Indiana (NFP)
48A02-1202-PC-170
Post conviction. Affirms denial of petition for post-conviction relief.

Toby Hicks v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1104-CR-328
Criminal. Affirms convictions of murder and Class C felony robbery.

Sandra R. Peters v. Wal-Mart (NFP)
93A02-1207-EX-562
Agency appeal. Affirms denial of claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

Toni L. Woods v. State of Indiana (NFP)
48A05-1204-CR-203
Criminal. Affirms order Woods serve half of her previously suspended sentence following a probation violation.
 

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  1. 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.

  2. 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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