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COA split on whether judgment on pleadings was proper

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In a lawsuit against an attorney, law firm and the firm’s insurer, the Indiana Court of Appeals was divided in its ruling over whether the trial court correctly granted the insurer’s motion for judgment on the pleadings.

Jason Tye Myers filed a lawsuit against Charles R. Deets III for fraud, and named his former partner Edward L. Kennedy, law firm Deets & Kennedy, and Great American Insurance Group as parties. Myers hired Deets – who was deceased when the suit was filed – for a criminal matter and Deets didn’t return a portion of a retainer fee after Myers fired him in 2005. Myers filed his lawsuit, which claimed fraud and constructive fraud, in 2011. He believed Kennedy, the law firm and the insurer were liable for the debt.

Great American moved for judgment on the pleadings; Kennedy and the law firm moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted both motions following a hearing.

The appellate court affirmed summary judgment in favor of Kennedy and the law firm, finding Myers didn’t prove there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Deets and Kennedy were partners at any time relevant to Myers’ complaint. As a result, he’s unable to show that either Kennedy or the firm is liable for Kennedy’s alleged fraudulent conduct.

Judge Edward Najam and Carr Darden reversed the grant of Great American’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that Myers’ complaint is sufficient to seek relief by way of a declaratory judgment. While his complaint doesn’t expressly seek a declaratory judgment on the question of insurance coverage, the assertion of a specific theory in a complaint isn’t required under notice pleading, wrote Najam in Jason Tye Myers v. Charles R. Deets III, Deets & Kennedy, and Great American Insurance Group, No. 79A02-1108-CT-77. Myers stated facts that would support a declaratory judgment action.

Judge Patricia Riley dissented on this point, writing that Myers’ complaint contemplates a direct action against the law firm, not a declaratory judgment. At no point does Myers try to seek a declaration that the insurance policy is in effect; instead he seeks reimbursement of his retainer fee. She doesn’t see any circumstances which would grant Myers relief.

 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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