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High court grants 6 transfers

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The Indiana Supreme Court took six cases last week, including two cases of first impression before the Indiana Court of Appeals involving attorney’s fees under the Adult Wrongful Death Statute and the modification of a felony conviction to a misdemeanor.  

In Jeffery H. McCabe, As Representative of the Estate of Jean Francis McCabe, Decedent v. Commissioner, Indiana Department of Insurance as Administrator of the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund, No. 49S02-1010-CV-602, Jeffrey McCabe appealed the grant of partial summary judgment in favor of the commissioner, and Indiana Department of Insurance as administrator of the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund. The trial court had ruled attorney’s fees and expenses incurred by the attorney representing the personal representative of a wrongful death estate are not recoverable damages under the state Adult Wrongful Death Statute.

McCabe cited Hillebrand v. Supervised Estate of Large, 914 N.E.2d 846 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), to support his argument, but the appellate court noted Hillebrand is distinguishable from the instant case because it was a probate case deciding from which probate assets attorney’s fees incurred should be paid, and it precedes both the Child Wrongful Death Statute and the AWDS. The judges also relied on Butler v. Indiana Department of Insurance, 904 N.E.2d, 198, 202 (Ind. 2009), in which the Supreme Court held that the “include but not limited to” language doesn’t expand the class of necessitated expenses.

Judge Patricia Riley dissented, believing Hillebrand, Butler, and Estate of Kuba, (508 N.E.2d 1, 2 (Ind. 1987), permitted reasonable attorney’s fees to be considered recoverable damages under the AWDS. A separate panel of judges ruled in September in Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund v. Beverly S. Brown, et al., No. 49A02-1001-CT-80, that attorney’s fees and other costs can be awarded under the AWDS. That panel used Judge Riley’s dissent to support its decision.

In State of Indiana v. Jeffrey Brunner, No. 57S04-1010-CR-603, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded with instructions the trial court’s modification of Jeffrey Brunner’s criminal sentence from a Class D felony to a Class A misdemeanor nine years after he pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

The judges examined Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-7(b), which the trial court used to modify his sentence, and found that the decision on whether to enter judgment on a Class D felony or Class A misdemeanor must be made at the moment of the original entry of the judgment of conviction. Judge Edward Najam said the trial court’s reliance on that statute to grant the requested relief was contrary to the plain meaning of the statute and an abuse of discretion.

In Susanne C. Gaudin, et al. v. J.W. Austin, president, et al., No. 07S04-1010-CV-600, Susanne Gaudin and other plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief upon learning the Brown County Commissioners enacted an ordinance in January 2009 purporting to dissolve a fire district. That district was created by a September 2007 ordinance. The plaintiffs alleged the dissolution ordinance was void because no petition to dissolve the district or repeal the ordinance establishing it had been filed.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the commissioners, ruling there's no reason to conclude that a governing body with the authority to establish the fire protection district doesn't have similar authority to dissolve it, but the Court of Appeals held county commissioners had no authority to enact the ordinance to attempt to dissolve the fire district.

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard recused himself from hearing this case based on his involvement in leading the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform, which provided recommendations for a leaner local government structure in the Kernan-Shepard report.

In Steven and Lauren Siwinski v. Town of Ogden Dunes, No. 64S03-1010-CV-599, the Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment for Ogden Dunes in its complaint against the Siwinskis alleging they violated an ordinance by renting out their house for periods of fewer than 30 days, which constituted a commercial use. The judges held nothing in the designated evidence established that any commerce or other activities not associated with a residence were ever conducted on the Siwinskis' property, nor did the evidence show that, at any time, the property was occupied by more than a single family simultaneously. They remanded for summary judgment to be entered in favor of the Siwinskis.

The Supreme Court granted transfer to two cases involving the same incident. In Damion Wilkins v. State of Indiana, No. 02S03-1010-CR-604, and Cornelius Tyrone Lacey Sr. v. State of Indiana, No. 02S05-1010-CR-601, the Court of Appeals reversed the denial of Damion Wilkins’ and Cornelius Lacey’s motions to suppress evidence obtained during the execution of a search warrant. During a trash pull at a suspected cocaine and marijuana dealer’s home, Lacey, police found mail addressed to Wilkins. He was at Lacey’s home when police decided to serve a search warrant in a “no-knock” fashion for officer safety and rammed the door down.

The appellate judges found there was probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant but the unilateral decision to dispense with the knock-and-announce rule was unreasonable under the Indiana Constitution. The police, if they were worried about their safety, had time to apply for a “no-knock” warrant, but did not. The appellate court took issue with the emergency response team’s policy that authorizes a unilateral decision to enter a home without knocking when there hasn’t been an independent determination regarding the circumstances. Judge Michael Barnes concurred in result in both decisions.

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  1. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  2. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  3. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  4. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  5. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

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