ILNews

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. File under the Sociology of Hoosier Discipline ... “We will be answering the complaint in due course and defending against the commission’s allegations,” said Indianapolis attorney Don Lundberg, who’s representing Hudson in her disciplinary case. FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW ... Lundberg ran the statist attorney disciplinary machinery in Indy for decades, and is now the "go to guy" for those who can afford him .... the ultimate insider for the well-to-do and/or connected who find themselves in the crosshairs. It would appear that this former prosecutor knows how the game is played in Circle City ... and is sacrificing accordingly. See more on that here ... http://www.theindianalawyer.com/supreme-court-reprimands-attorney-for-falsifying-hours-worked/PARAMS/article/43757 Legal sociologists could have a field day here ... I wonder why such things are never studied? Is a sacrifice to the well connected former regulators a de facto bribe? Such questions, if probed, could bring about a more just world, a more equal playing field, less Stalinist governance. All of the things that our preambles tell us to value could be advanced if only sunshine reached into such dark worlds. As a great jurist once wrote: "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman." Other People's Money—and How Bankers Use It (1914). Ah, but I am certifiable, according to the Indiana authorities, according to the ISC it can be read, for believing such trite things and for advancing such unwanted thoughts. As a great albeit fictional and broken resistance leaders once wrote: "I am the dead." Winston Smith Let us all be dead to the idea of maintaining a patently unjust legal order.

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