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High court grants 6 transfers

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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer today to decide whether casinos can ban card counters. The high court also granted transfer to five cases Thursday, including a case of first impression regarding post-retirement health-insurance premiums.

In Thomas P. Donovan v. Grand Victoria Casino & Resort, No. 49S02-1003-CV-124, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment for the casino in Thomas Donovan's suit challenging his ban from the casino. The appellate court granted Donovan summary judgment on his request for declaratory judgment that the casino can't exclude him from playing blackjack because of his card counting. The Indiana Gaming Commission hasn't enacted a provision that bans card counting, and Grand Victoria can't simply take refuge in the common law right of exclusion, ruled the appellate court.

In Anne M. Bingley v. Charles B. Bingley, No. 02S03-1002-CV-122, the Court of Appeals ruled for the first time that post-retirement health-insurance premiums paid by a former employer aren't a marital asset subject to a division. The trial court didn't include Charles Bingley's employer-paid, post-retirement health-insurance premiums when dividing the couple's assets during the dissolution process.

Anne Bingley argued the payments fall under subsection 2 of Indiana Code Section 31-9-2-98(b), as a retirement benefit not forfeited upon the termination of employment, and cited several Indiana cases that found pension benefits to be marital assets. But the Court of Appeals ruled the premiums weren't a marital asset subject to division. The cases Anne cited involved monthly monetary payments made directly to the pension-holding spouse; Charles' benefit wasn't payable to him but was non-elective and couldn't be divided or transferred, wrote Judge Elaine Brown.

In his concurring opinion, Judge Terry Crone encouraged the Indiana General Assembly to address a perceived ambiguity in the definition of "retirement benefits" and "vested" in terms of the Internal Revenue Code.

In Indiana High School Athletic Association v. Jasmine S. Watson, No. 71S03-1002-CV-119, a majority on the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's finding that the Indiana High School Athletic Association acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it ruled Jasmine Watson was ineligible to play basketball at a high school she transferred to just before her senior year. The majority also upheld an injunction placed by the trial court to prevent the IHSAA from enforcing the decision.

Watson's family claimed the transfer was caused by her mother's work hours being cut, the impending foreclosure of their home, and extended family living in South Bend.

Even though Watson has since graduated, the Court of Appeals took the case because if they found she was ineligible, it could force the high school to forfeit wins or awards. Even taking into account the IHSAA evidence that Watson and her mother had spoken about transferring prior to her mother's work hours being cut, the majority focused on the family's financial situation as the primary reason they moved to South Bend.

Judge Ezra Friedlander dissented because he thought the evidence supported the finding Watson was ineligible to play her senior year.

The justices granted transfer to In the Matter of the Estate of Harry L. Rickert, No. 18S04-1002-CV-118, in which one Court of Appeals judge believed In Re Estate of Banko, 622 N.E.2d 476, 480 (Ind. 1993), was binding, causing his dissent. Judge Michael Barnes disagreed with the majority that Banko doesn't apply to Rickert. He urged the high court to reconsider Banko's breadth given that an unscrupulous caregiver could take advantage of someone and get joint tenancy of accounts.

Carole Baker, as personal representative and beneficiary, argued the accounts opened by Harry Rickert's caretaker should be considered property of the estate. The trial court ruled the accounts presumptively belong to caregiver Keta Taylor unless the estate could prove "a different intention" on Rickert's part when they were created. The majority reversed and remanded for further proceedings because Rickert couldn't have had any intention regarding the ownership of the accounts at his death because he was allegedly incompetent in the last few years of his life when the accounts were made. The majority also held Banko doesn't require application of the Non-Probate Transfer Act statutory presumption in favor of Taylor as payable on death beneficiary or joint account holder under the facts of the case.

In U.S. Bank N.A. v. Integrity Land Title Corp., No. 17S03-1002-CV-120, the appellate court reversed the trial court's denial of U.S. Bank's motion to correct error and motion for relief from judgment in its contract claim against Integrity. There was a genuine issue of material fact whether Integrity contracted as a principal or an agent and whether Integrity breached the contract. Later on rehearing, a majority of COA judges allowed the parties to raise arguments for the first time in a response to a hearing before the appellate court. In response to U.S. Bank's petition for rehearing, Integrity raised new issues. Judge Melissa May dissented, finding the court's rules don't allow Integrity to raise the new argument and allowing it to do so effectively deprived U.S. Bank of an opportunity to respond.

In Christine Dugan v. Mittal Steel USA Inc., and Jay Komorowski, No. 45S05-1002-CV-121, the appellate court affirmed summary judgment for Mittal and Jay Komorowski as to the statements described in Paragraph 6 of Dugan's complaint for defamation. Dugan was fired from Mittal following an investigation of an alleged theft ring in the department where she worked. The judges reversed summary judgment in favor of Mittal and Komorowski as to Paragraph 7 of Dugan's complaint and remanded for further proceedings on that portion of her defamation claim. Mittal failed to establish as a matter of law that the statement is protected by the common interest privilege.

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