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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. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  2. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  3. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  4. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

  5. No, Ron Drake is not running against incumbent Larry Bucshon. That’s totally wrong; and destructively misleading to say anything like that. All political candidates, including me in the 8th district, are facing voters, not incumbents. You should not firewall away any of voters’ options. We need them all now more than ever. Right? Y’all have for decades given the Ds and Rs free 24/7/365 coverage of taxpayer-supported promotion at the expense of all alternatives. That’s plenty of head-start, money-in-the-pocket advantage for parties and people that don’t need any more free immunities, powers, privileges and money denied all others. Now it’s time to play fair and let voters know that there are, in fact, options. Much, much better, and not-corrupt options. Liberty or Bust! Andy Horning Libertarian for IN08 USA House of Representatives Freedom, Indiana

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