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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. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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