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Justices reinstate COA decision in Simon defamation suit

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The Indiana Court of Appeals opinion reversing a Marion Superior judge’s denial of a California attorney’s motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by Herbert Simon will stand. The state’s highest court split evenly over whether the trial court should have denied that motion.

According to an order released by the Indiana Supreme Court Tuesday, the participating justices were split 2-2 in their analysis as to whether Marion Superior Judge Heather Welch should have denied attorney Joseph Davis’ motion to dismiss. Simon and his wife, Bui Simon, sued the California attorney who was representing plaintiffs in several lawsuits filed against the Simons in California. The lawsuit stems from comments Davis made to an Indianapolis TV station regarding the lawsuits, which aired in Indiana. The comments referred to the firing of the Simons’ former house manager in California, with Davis saying the termination occurred because the Simons were trying to conceal that they employed an undocumented worker.

The Simons filed their suit in Marion County, arguing defamation and false light publicity based on Davis’ statements. Welch denied Davis’ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or grounds of forum non conveniens. A split Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Davis in February 2012.

The justices took the case in August and heard arguments in October. Only three justices heard the case – Chief Justice Brent Dickson and Justices Robert Rucker and Steven David. Justice Loretta Rush was not on the court when the case was heard, and Justice Mark Massa did not participate in the case.

Indiana Appellate Rule 58(C) dictates that when the Supreme Court is evenly divided after granting transfer, the decision of the Court of Appeals is reinstated.

 

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