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Judges tell trial court to declare commissioner’s order void

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s denial of a title insurance company’s verified petition for judicial review and declaratory relief, finding the court erred by requiring a separate showing of prejudice because the Indiana insurance commissioner failed to comply with a mandatory statutory deadline regarding an order setting an investigatory hearing.

In First American Title Insurance Company v. Stephen W. Robertson, Insurance Commissioner of the State of Indiana, on Behalf of the Indiana Dept. of Insurance,
49A04-1206-PL-326, Stephen W. Robertson, as Indiana insurance commissioner, had a third-party perform a market conduct examination of First American Title Insurance Company. The commissioner and First American were unable to reach a resolution on the issues regarding the report and the commissioner requested two extensions of the statutory 30-day deadline. The insurance company denied the commissioner’s third request for an extension, leading Robertson to issue an order appointing an administrative law judge and set an investigatory hearing on the report.

First American sought judicial review and declaratory relief in Marion Superior Court, saying the commissioner’s failure to act on the report within the statutory timeframe rendered the order void. The trial court denied the commissioner’s motion to dismiss, finding that First American properly filed an agency record, but held under the Administrative Orders and Procedures Act that the court must find that an agency action both fits into one of five categories and that the agency action prejudiced the petitioner in order to set aside the action. Those categories include an action that is in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority or limitations, or short of statutory right.

The court found First American didn’t meet its burden of proof regarding prejudice.

The Court of Appeals held that Robertson waived his argument that First American failed to exhaust administrative remedies because he raised this issue for the first time on appeal. The judges affirmed the denial of his motion to dismiss on the grounds First American failed to submit an agency record.

“Because the issue was a question of law regarding compliance with a statutory deadline, and there were no disputed facts, the submitted materials were sufficient to allow judicial review of the issue,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote. “Moreover, most of the materials typically included in an agency record do not exist in this case because no evidentiary hearing was conducted.”

The judges also held that the commissioner does not have flexibility under statute as to when to respond to the third-party report and that the “shall” in I.C. 27-1-3.1-11 is mandatory. When the mandatory statutory deadline passed, the commissioner no longer had the authority to issue an order with regard to the report, rendering his order void, Robb wrote.

“… by failing to comply with a mandatory statutory deadline, the Commissioner acted without observance of procedure required by law and in excess of its statutory authority,” she continued. “No Indiana caselaw requires proving anything beyond establishing that the agency action at issue falls into one of the five enumerated categories set forth in Indiana Code section 4-21.5-5-14(d) in order to obtain relief. Thus, we find that First American satisfied its burden of proof and was entitled to relief.”
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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