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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. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  2. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  3. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  4. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

  5. Agreed on 4th Amendment call - that was just bad policing that resulted in dismissal for repeat offender. What kind of parent names their boy "Kriston"?

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