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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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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