Court orders suit against Papa John's to trial

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a grant of summary judgment in favor of a national pizza chain and its employee, finding there were genuine issues of fact as to whether the employee's statement to police was protected by privilege. In Thomas Williams and Sanford Kelsey v. Kelly Eugene Tharp and Papa John's U.S.A. Inc., No. 29A02-0707-CV-625, Thomas Williams and Sanford Kelsey appealed the trial court grant of summary judgment in favor of Papa John's on their claims for defamation, false imprisonment, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Williams and Kelsey picked up a pizza at a Westfield Papa John's. On their way out, an employee, Kelly Tharp, who was using his father's name and information to get the job at Papa John's because he had a criminal past, told a passerby and other employees that Kelsey had a gun. Other employees didn't report seeing a gun. The police were called and Tharp gave the officer the license plate number and description of Kelsey's car. As the two were returning home with their pizza, police surrounded the car and ordered them out at gunpoint. The two were handcuffed and detained for more than an hour while police searched and discovered they didn't have a gun. At the store, a police officer stood behind the counter where Tharp would have been and deduced that he wouldn't have been able to see Kelsey pull a gun from his waist because of the location of the counter. The Court of Appeals found there were many issues of fact in this case and granting Papa John's and Tharp summary judgment on the claims was an error. "The allegation Tharp reported Williams and Kelsey 'pulled a gun' presented factual issues for trial because, as the trial court correctly noted, it imputed criminal activity to Williams and Kelsey," wrote Judge Melissa May. The trial court erred in concluding Tharp's statement was privileged, even if it was defamatory, because there is a genuine issue of fact as to whether privilege applied to his statement. Williams and Kelsey offered ample evidence to give rise to that issue of fact whether Tharp acted with reckless disregard for the truth, she wrote. As a result of the question of whether Tharp's statement was protected by privilege, summary judgment on the false imprisonment count was improperly premised on the qualified privilege. Because of other issues of fact on the intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, and punitive damages claims, granting summary judgment in favor of the pizza chain and Tharp was an error. The appellate court remanded the case for trial. 

"My clients are very happy about it and looking forward to getting their day in court," said Arend J. Abel of Indianapolis-based law firm Cohen & Malad, who represented Williams and Kelsey.

Abel noted that Tharp recently pleaded guilty to false informing, acknowledging he deliberately made a false report.

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  1. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  2. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.

  3. (A)ll (C)riminals (L)ove (U)s is up to their old, "If it's honorable and pro-American, we're against it," nonsense. I'm not a big Pence fan but at least he's showing his patriotism which is something the left won't do.

  4. While if true this auto dealer should be held liable, where was the BMV in all of this? How is it that the dealer was able to get "clean" titles to these vehicles in order to sell them to unsuspecting consumers?

  5. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless [ ] Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. GOD BLESS THE GOVERNORS RESISTING! Count on the gutless judiciary to tie our children down and facilitate the swords being drawn across their throats. Wake Up America ...