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Supreme Court lets lawyer’s suit against Duke Realty proceed

July 25, 2014

The Indiana Supreme Court summarily affirmed a Court of Appeals ruling that a jury should decide whether a real estate company intentionally induced a law firm to terminate an attorney’s partnership agreement as the result of a dispute over a land agreement.

Justices ruled in a two-page order Thursday in Carol Sparks Drake v. Thomas A. Dickey, Craig Anderson, Charles E. Podell, and Duke Realty Corp., 29S02-1407-CT-483.

Last December, a Court of Appeals panel ruled that the trial court erred in concluding that Carol Sparks Drake failed to present a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Duke Realty intentionally induced her employer, Parr Richey Obremskey & Morton, to terminate her as a partner.

The Supreme Court order reinstates the Court of Appeals ruling that remands the matter to Hamilton Superior Court.

The Court of Appeals ruling concluded, “In sum, it is for a jury to weigh the evidence and competing inferences and to determine Duke Realty’s intent, including whether Duke Realty intended to interfere with Drake’s partnership agreement, whether Duke Realty reasonably contemplated that its threat was certain or substantially certain to interfere with that agreement without regard to whether Duke Realty actually intended or desired that result, or whether Duke Realty’s threat to withdraw all of its business from Parr Richey was merely an expression of a client’s legitimate concern about a conflict of interest.”

The case drew amicus briefs from the Indianapolis Bar Association as well as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Justice Steven David did not participate.

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