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Heavily redacted report cannot hide behind business-judgment rule

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Although a report produced by a special litigation committee contains privileged information, the plaintiffs must be allowed full access to the unredacted version in order to determine if the investigation was extensive and conduced in good faith.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order in TP Orthodontics, Inc., Christopher K. Kesling, DDS, MS, Adam Kesling, and Emily Kesling, Individually and derivatively on behalf of TP Orthodontics, Inc., v. Andrew C. Kesling, et. al., 46A03-1207-MI-324.

The trial court compelled TP Orthodontics to file a copy of the entire report produced by the special litigation committee.   

TPO’s board of directors established the special litigation committee after the three sibling shareholders filed a lawsuit against their brother, Andrew Kesling, on behalf of the family business TP Orthodontics.

The committee investigated and then issued a report recommending pursuing only a few of the siblings’ claims. In accordance with Indiana law, TPO filed a motion to dismiss the rejected claims and attached a heavily redacted copy of the committee’s report.

Subsequently, the siblings demanded access to the unredacted report. TPO refused, pointing to Indiana’s business-judgment rule.

This rule allows courts to inquire into a committee’s investigative procedures and methodologies but not into the substance of a committee’s decision. TPO argued that by requesting the unredacted report, the siblings sought to go beyond the bounds of permissible access under the business-judgment rule.

Indiana Code 23-1-32-4, which codifies the business judgment rule, sets forth the presumption that corporate directors act in an informed, good faith, and honest manner when managing corporate affairs.

Plaintiffs are allowed to challenge a special litigation committee’s findings only on the grounds that the committee was not disinterested or did not conduct its investigation in good faith.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court, finding that access to the entire report is necessary for the siblings to make their statutorily allowed challenges, most notably their good-faith argument.  

“In closing, we acknowledge TPO’s concerns about potential implications of our holding on the business-judgment rule, but we do not share them,” Vaidik wrote for the court. “There is no reason to believe that simply allowing derivative plaintiffs access to committee reports will lead to trespass into the domain of business judgment. We are confident in the ability of our trial courts to interpret Indiana’s business-judgment rule and reject claims that threaten to emasculate that rule.”


 

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  1. 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?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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