State Farm Fire Casualty v. Joseph Martin Radcliff, et al. - 2/26/13

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Tuesday  February 26, 2013 
10:30 AM  EST

10:30 a.m. 29A04-1110-CT-571. Indiana Supreme Court courtroom. On April 14, 2006, central Indiana suffered a hailstorm that caused millions of dollars in property damage and generated thousands of insurance claims.  Following the storm, Joseph Radcliff created Coastal Property Management LLC (CPM) to assist homeowners in identifying storm damage, repairing that damage, and working with insurance companies to pay for repairs.  Many State Farm & Casualty Co. policyholders’ claims were denied, and some of them complained to the Indiana Department of Insurance.  Radcliff was retained by a number of State Farm policyholders.  Two State Farm employees began investigating Radcliff for insurance fraud and forwarded their files to the authorities.  The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges against Radcliff, but those charges were later dismissed.

State Farm sued Radcliff and CPM for racketeering and insurance fraud in Hamilton Superior Court.  State Farm alleged that Radcliff, through CPM, had a fraudulent scheme of intentionally damaging homes to simulate hail and wind damage and submitting false insurance claims.  Radcliff and CPM counterclaimed alleging that State Farm defamed Radcliff by falsely accusing him of criminal conduct
 
 In June 2011, after a six-week jury trial at which forty witnesses testified, the jury found in favor of Radcliff and CPM on their defamation counterclaim and awarded them $14.5 million.  After the verdict, State Farm filed a motion to correct errors in which it moved for judgment on the evidence, argued that it was entitled to a new trial under the “Thirteenth Juror Rule,” and argued that the damage award was excessive.  The trial court denied State Farm’s motion.  State Farm now appeals the defamation judgment arguing that its communications were protected by statutory immunity and a common-law qualified privilege for crime reporting, Radcliff failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that State Farm acted with actual malice, and the damages are excessive.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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