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Court clarifies attorney fee recovery under Trial Rule 34(C)(3)

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The Indiana Court of Appeals Tuesday decided that under Indiana Trial Rule 34(C)(3), refusing to comply with a discovery request solely because the parties can’t agree on an appropriate amount to pay does not constitute reasonable resistance to a discovery request.

Lisa Gonzalez subpoenaed R. Stanton Evans for information about her ex-husband’s business interests. Evans is a business partner in 31 of those endeavors, and Gonzalez believed that her ex-husband undervalued the marital estate in their divorce and fraudulently induced her to accept the property settlement agreement.

Evans believed the subpoena was too broad. Months passed, and although Evans had already compiled the nearly 1,000 pages of documents, Evans demanded $1,500 in attorney fees and $500 for his time before turning over the documents. Gonzalez paid the $500 but refused to pay attorney fees, instead filing a motion to compel. Evans claimed any grant of the motion should be conditioned upon her prepayment of damages incurred by Evans in his “reasonable resistance.” Evans never sought to quash or limit the subpoena in court and never sought a protective order.

The court eventually ordered Gonzalez to pay Evans $8,289.33 in attorney fees and did not award her any attorney fees for Evans initial noncooperation.

The gist of the case is Evans’ claims that he was entitled to insist that Gonzalez pay attorney fees to him in an amount he requested before he had to comply with the subpoena, based on T.R. 34(C)(3). The rule says damages shall include reasonable attorney fees incurred in “reasonable resistance.” He claimed he reasonably resisted the subpoena because she refused to pay any security against any damages he might sustain, so he is entitled to the attorney fees.

Citing IBM v. ACS Human Servs. LLC, 999, N.E.2d 880, 885 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), the only other Indiana case directly addressing this trial rule, the judges concluded the amount of attorney fees award to Evans exceeded the bounds of what is contemplated by the rule.

“The key here in our view is that Gonzalez proximately caused only a small percentage of the attorney fees that Evans incurred,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in Lisa B. Gonzalez v. R. Stanton Evans, 29A02-1311-DR-984. Evans is entitled to attorney fees, but not the amount originally ordered. The judges ordered the trial court to determine how much in fees Evans incurred in relation to his compliance with the subpoena and document review.

The judges also held that the rule does not permit a non-party to unilaterally withhold documents requested by a subpoena on the condition that the requesting party first pays attorney fees in an amount demanded by the non-party.

“Even if Trial Rule 34(C)(3) permits a subpoenaed party to ask for prepayment of security from the subpoenaing party, we do not believe that a disagreement between the parties as to the appropriate amount of such security permits the subpoenaed party to withhold the documents indefinitely and to run up more attorney fees in the process,” he wrote.

They also affirmed the denial of attorney fees to Gonzalez because they found she waived her claim by failing to present some evidence or argument regarding her attorney fees.

 

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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