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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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