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High court clarifies preliminary injunction issue

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The Indiana Supreme Court issued an opinion today explaining its reasoning for granting a permanent writ of mandamus last year against Clark Circuit Court. The justices also clarified the procedure that may be used to withdraw a case from a court that fails to rule promptly after hearing a motion related to a preliminary injunction.

In August 2009, Crain Heating Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Inc. filed a complaint in Clark Circuit Court seeking damages and injunctive relief against Elite Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Inc. and its officers and employees. The company also filed for a preliminary injunction against Elite to prevent it from misappropriating Crain's confidential business information.

Clark Circuit Judge Daniel Moore was assigned to the complaint. Elite filed for a change of judge, which was granted. Judge Moore still presided over Crain's preliminary injunction hearing Aug. 20, which was scheduled prior to the request for change of judge. The parties were given until Sept. 14 to submit proposed findings of fact. Elite move for and was granted a 10-day extension to file. On Sept. 21, Crain filed a praecipe alleging the court failed to timely rule on the preliminary injunction motion and asked the clerk pursuant to Indiana Trial Rules 53.1 and 65(A)(3) to review the matter and determine more than 30 days had passed without a ruling since the conclusion of the hearing on the preliminary injunction.

Eight days later, the clerk determined a ruling on the preliminary injunction request hadn't been delayed. Judge Moore then denied the preliminary injunction. Crain filed the original action for permanent writ of mandamus, which the Supreme Court granted Dec. 7.That writ ordered the clerk to withdraw the case from the trial court and transmit it to the Supreme Court for appointment of a special judge and for Judge Moore to vacate his Oct. 2 order denying the preliminary injunction.

In today's action, State of Indiana ex. rel. Crain Heating Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Inc. v. The Clark Circuit Court, et al., No. 10S00-0910-OR-500, the justices noted the papers filed aren't clear as to whether Crain sought relief because the Circuit Court failed to rule within 10 days after the preliminary injunction hearing, per T.R. 65(A)(3), or within 30 days after the hearing, per T.R. 53.1, or both. There's been no precedent discussing the interplay between the two trial rules - T.R. 65(A)(3) refers to the 10-day deadline but also refers to T.R.53.1's 30-day time frame for ruling on motions in general.

"These rules should be interpreted in conjunction with each other to mean that unless an order is entered within ten days after the hearing upon the granting, modifying, or dissolving of a temporary or preliminary injunction, there has been a delay in ruling and an interested party may immediately praecipe for withdrawal under the procedure provided in Trial Rule 53.1(E)," the per curium order stated.

If the ruling involves the granting, modifying, or dissolving of a temporary or preliminary injunction and it hasn't been entered within 10 days, it's not necessary for a party to wait for the 30-day period under T.R. 53.1. A clerk should determine the question of delay with reference to the 10-day period.

Because a ruling wasn't issued within 10 days of the Aug. 20 hearing and Crain then filed its praecipe, it's entitled to have the case withdrawn from the court.

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