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Judges split over ruling in failed adoption case

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A majority on the Indiana Court of Appeals Friday reversed summary judgment in favor of the facilitator of an adoption on a negligence claim brought by the adoptive parents after the baby’s biological father sought and was awarded custody.

In Jason and Justina Kramer v. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Inc., 71A03-1308-CT-301, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend facilitated a meeting between M.S. and Jason and Justina Kramer regarding the adoption of M.S.’s unborn child. Through this process, the Kramers signed two waivers that stated the baby’s father could exert legal rights and that the placement of the child with them is at-risk. M.S. declined to identify the father.

Catholic Charities performed two searches of the Indiana State Health Department’s records to see if anyone claimed to be the baby’s father. The first search showed nothing; the second search discovered that on April 27, R.M. registered. It’s unknown why this didn’t show up during the first search on May 25.

The Kramers sought to adopt the baby anyway; R.M. contested the adoption and was awarded custody of the baby. The Kramers relinquished custody of the baby in January 2011.

They sued, alleging Catholic Charities was negligent when it failed to check the putative father registry before placing the child with them. The trial court granted summary judgment to Catholic Charities.

Judges Edward Najam and Terry Crone reversed, holding that the releases executed by the Kramers did not bar their claims because they do not explicitly contemplate Catholic Charities’ negligence.  

“Here, the Kramers designated evidence that Catholic Charities had a policy of checking the putative father registry twice before placing a child with a pre-adoptive family. And the Kramers contend that Catholic Charities was negligent when it did not comply with that policy before placing E. with them. While there was risk inherent in the nature of the placement, we hold that the risk that Catholic Charities would not comply with its policy to check the putative father registry twice before a pre-adoptive placement was not inherent in the nature of the placement. This policy was unknown to the Kramers at the time they worked with Catholic Charities and, at best, Catholic Charities’ failure to comply with this policy presented a latent risk to the Kramers,” Najam wrote.

Judge John Baker dissented, writing that the agency satisfied its burden and made a prima facie showing that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. He pointed out that perhaps the registration document executed by R.M. hadn’t been properly filed until after the first search was executed, so Catholic Charities wouldn’t have discovered it. And if an earlier check would not have found the father’s registration, the Kramers would have accepted the child even if Catholic Charities had checked the registry before placing the baby with them.

“In any event, it is undisputed that the father registered before the child was born, and there is no showing that Catholic Charities’s failure to check the registry proximately caused any alleged injuries to the Kramers,” he wrote.
 

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  1. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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