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Despite out-of-court agreement, COA upholds motion to strike

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The Indiana Court of Appeals encourages collegiality among attorneys when it comes to resolving issues outside of court, but it had to uphold the striking of documents because they were not timely filed with the trial court. The parties’ attorneys agreed to an extension of time to reply outside of court, but the trial court had no choice but to not allow the late reply.

In Mary Booher, et al. v. Sheeram, LLC, No. 20A03-1005-CT-338, Mary and Steve Booher sued Hampton Inn of Elkhart after Mary slipped in a bathtub and injured herself. The hotel had received earlier complaints that the tubs were slippery and coated the tubs with a non-skid surface, but that didn’t cover the entire bottom of the tubs. The coating did comply with safety standards.

The Boohers filed a negligence suit and requested through the courts and received two extensions of times to reply to Hampton Inn’s motion for summary judgment. After their second extension, their deadline to reply was Nov. 7, 2008.

But the Boohers’ expert needed more time to get his report together and was going to be out of the country until Nov. 7. The Boohers’ attorney also was preparing for major surgery on Oct. 24 and would be away for two weeks. The attorney’s legal assistant spoke with Hampton Inn’s attorney, who agreed to a three-week extension, but the Boohers never filed a formal request for an extension with the trial court. They submitted their material designation of facts and other documents Nov. 26.

Hampton Inn then filed a motion to strike, which the trial court granted based on Trial Rule 56. It later granted summary judgment for Hampton Inn.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the motion to strike based on the bright line rule set forth by the Indiana Supreme Court, which says a trial court “may exercise discretion and alter time limits under 56(I) only if the nonmoving party has responded or sought an extension within thirty days from the date the moving party filed for summary judgment.”

Chief Judge John Baker wrote that the appellate court encourages collegiality to solve issues outside of the courtroom, but in circumstances as what occurred in the instant case, parties must still seek formal relief directly from the trial court.

“We acknowledge, as did the trial court, that the Boohers’ attorney was working under extraordinarily difficult circumstances—an expert who was out of the country and unable to complete his report in a timely fashion together with a major surgery endured by counsel certainly constituted cause to extend the deadline by three more weeks,” he wrote. “Our proverbial hands are tied, however, inasmuch as our Supreme Court has made it clear that the trial court simply had no discretion to accept the untimely filed documents, regardless of the circumstances.”

The Court of Appeals also affirmed summary judgment for Hampton Inn because the Boohers failed to show Hampton Inn breached its duty to them.
 

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  • The Defense Lawyer's Fraudulent Conduct Rewarded
    My issue with this ruling is that the trial court struck the filing as a result of defense counsel filing a Motion to Strike after the agreement. Doing so rewards fraudulent conduct by an officer of the court. Had the court struck the filing "sui sponte", I would have no issue with the ruling.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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