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Dentist’s reputation, privacy and identity are not chattel under T.R. 75(A)(2)

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The Indiana Court of Appeals decided that the preferred venue of a woman’s lawsuit against her ex-boyfriend alleging defamation and other claims is in Marion County where the man resides and not in Lake County where she works. The opinion hinged upon whether there were chattels involved.

Catherine Kroczek and William Belcher dated for a few months in 2012 but broke up in September of that year. While dating, she told Belcher she had the herpes simplex virus. After they broke up, Belcher mailed letters to the dentistry offices where Kroczek worked, telling her employers and colleagues she had herpes and had infected “only a few people.” He also registered her on several websites without her knowledge regarding her health status.

She sued Belcher in Lake County, alleging he committed defamation per se, invasion of privacy, disclosure of private facts, intentional infliction of emotional distress, identity theft and tortuous interference with a business relationship. He filed a motion to transfer to Marion County, where he lived, which was denied.

Kroczek claimed her reputation, privacy, identity and goodwill are intangible personal chattels under Trial Rule 75(A)(2), thus supporting Lake County as the preferred venue.

The courts have previously found the right to publicity or a money judgment is intangible personal chattel, but those rights are transferrable. But reputation, privacy and identity are not transferrable, Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in William M. Belcher v. Catherine Kroczek, D.D.S., 45A03-1311-CT-436. They are inherently different from patents, money judgments and publicity rights, so they are not chattels.

Goodwill may qualify as a chattel, but it can’t serve as the basis for preferred venue in this case because it does not allege an injury to enterprise goodwill, which is a business asset.

Belcher is entitled to transfer venue to Marion County based on his residence, the COA held.
 

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  1. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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