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Court tackles 2 first-impression issues

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The Indiana Supreme Court ruled on a case today in which there were two issues of first impression, finding consolidation of a trial with a preliminary injunction hearing without notice isn't a reversible error unless a showing of prejudice can be made.

In John C. Roberts, M.D. v. Community Hospitals of Indiana, Inc., No. 49S02-0804-CV-189, the high court was faced with two issues Indiana courts hadn't directly ruled on - the standard of review of a trial court's decision to advance and consolidate a trial on the merits with a preliminary injunction, and whether a party which solicits the equivalent of a final judgment waives any challenges to consolidation as improper.

Dr. John C. Roberts was a resident in Community Hospitals' Family Medicine Residence Program under a one-year contract. Despite tardiness and absenteeism from work, Roberts' contract was renewed for a second year. After several warnings about his missing exams and not showing up for shifts, Community terminated his contract. Roberts sued for breach of contract and the trial court held a preliminary injunction hearing. The court then consolidated without notice the hearing with a trial on the merits pursuant to Ind. Trial Rule 65(A)(2), denying Roberts' application for a preliminary injunction, and entering final judgment in favor of Community. The trial court also denied Roberts' motion to correct error, in which he argued if he had received notice, he would have called other witnesses and presented more evidence, but he didn't specify names or facts.

The high court hasn't addressed T.R. 65(A)(2) since it was enacted in 1970, and turned to federal courts to see how they have interpreted the similar Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a)(2). The prevailing federal rule is that allegations of prejudice by the consolidation must be specific, which means more than simply identifying the steps that might be possible to produce evidence not shown at the preliminary injunction stage, wrote Justice Theodore Boehm.

The justices also recognized that a stricter requirement of showing prejudice may produce unfair results and may need to be relaxed in situations, such as when a party had little time for discovery of matters largely known to its opponent. The Supreme Court then outlined items a court must consider to determine prejudice following a surprise consolidation.

The Supreme Court also examined another issue of first impression: Community's argument that Roberts can't claim surprise from consolidation because he submitted a proposed order to the court requesting relief on the merits. The 3rd and 7th Circuit appeals courts have addressed this issue and ruled a plaintiff had waived any objection to the timeliness of a notice because he had submitted a brief and a proposed order which "contemplated solely a final adjudication on the merits," wrote the justice.

"We prefer to resolve cases on the merits if in doubt, and we therefore find no waiver in this case but observe that Community's argument finds support in the foregoing federal authority," wrote Justice Boehm. "In the future, of course, parties should be mindful that a request for relief available only in a final judgment after a preliminary injunction hearing may invite consolidation under Trial Rule 65(A)(2) and waive any objection to lack of notice."

The Supreme Court affirmed the consolidation and entry of final judgment.

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  1. Video pen? Nice work, "JW"! Let this be a lesson and a caution to all disgruntled ex-spouses (or soon-to-be ex-spouses) . . . you may think that altercation is going to get you some satisfaction . . . it will not.

  2. First comment on this thread is a fitting final comment on this thread, as that the MCBA never answered Duncan's fine question, and now even Eric Holder agrees that the MCBA was in material error as to the facts: "I don't get it" from Duncan December 1, 2014 5:10 PM "The Grand Jury met for 25 days and heard 70 hours of testimony according to this article and they made a decision that no crime occurred. On what basis does the MCBA conclude that their decision was "unjust"? What special knowledge or evidence does the MCBA have that the Grand Jury hearing this matter was unaware of? The system that we as lawyers are sworn to uphold made a decision that there was insufficient proof that officer committed a crime. How can any of us say we know better what was right than the jury that actually heard all of the the evidence in this case."

  3. wow is this a bunch of bs! i know the facts!

  4. MCBA .... time for a new release about your entire membership (or is it just the alter ego) being "saddened and disappointed" in the failure to lynch a police officer protecting himself in the line of duty. But this time against Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation: "WASHINGTON — Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/us/justice-department-ferguson-civil-rights-darren-wilson.html?ref=us&_r=0

  5. Dr wail asfour lives 3 hours from the hospital,where if he gets an emergency at least he needs three hours,while even if he is on call he should be in a location where it gives him max 10 minutes to be beside the patient,they get paid double on their on call days ,where look how they handle it,so if the death of the patient occurs on weekend and these doctors still repeat same pattern such issue should be raised,they should be closer to the patient.on other hand if all the death occured on the absence of the Dr and the nurses handle it,the nurses should get trained how to function appearntly they not that good,if the Dr lives 3 hours far from the hospital on his call days he should sleep in the hospital

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