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Fees against IHSAA for unreasonable litigation upheld

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The Indiana High School Athletic Association should pay for its insistence on enforcing rules that courts repeatedly said were arbitrary and capricious, an appeals panel ruled Tuesday.

The case dates to the early 1990s and involves former Andrean High School student-athlete Shane Schafer, who withdrew from school due to a medical condition and was forced to repeat a grade. The IHSAA declared him ineligible to play basketball.

IHSAA appealed a ruling from Jasper Circuit Special Judge Daniel J. Molter awarding the Schafers more than $86,000 in fees in the long-running litigation, a decision affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

“A trial court may award attorney’s fees when a party continues to litigate the case after the party’s claims have become frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless,” Senior Judge Randall Shepard wrote for the panel in Indiana High School Athletic Association, Inc. v. Gregory S. Schafer and Shane Schafer b/n/f Gregory S. Schafer, 37A03-1303-CP-86.

“Here, the trial court ordered fees after finding that the litigation conduct by the Indiana High School Athletic Association in trying to prevent a student from playing for his school demonstrated all three of these.

“We conclude that, at the least, the trial court was within its discretion to hold that the course of conduct by IHSAA was 'unreasonable' and that it could consider the multiple rulings adverse to IHSAA in reaching that decision.”
 

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