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Lack of transcript limits review of fire damages award on appeal

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A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals rejected an appeal seeking full compensation after an Allen County fire in large part because the appealing party included no transcript of the trial court proceedings.

A jury found that a company breached its contract to insulate a building after a worker dropped a portable light onto the attic floor and installed insulation over the fixture, resulting in the fire. The jury then used the Indiana Comparative Fault Act to determine the contractor was 55 percent to blame and the building owner 45 percent. The building owner was awarded $154,144.65 of the total damages of $280,263.

In Lifeline Youth & Family Services v. Installed Building Products, Inc. d/b/a Momper Insulation, 02A03-1211-CT-502, Lifeline won the breach of contract ruling but appealed a trial court denial of its motion to correct error, arguing it should have been awarded the full amount of damages. Lifeline claims the jury erroneously applied comparative fault to its breach of contract claim.

“Momper argues that Lifeline has waived any challenge to the jury’s award of damages because Lifeline ‘did not object to the [damages] verdict before the jury was dismissed,’” Judge Rudy Pyle III wrote for the panel that also included judges Michael Barnes and James Kirsch.

“Lifeline responds to Momper’s argument by chastising Momper for stating that Lifeline did not object to the jury’s damages verdict without citing to the Transcript or Appendix. Nevertheless, Lifeline then does the same thing and asserts — without citation to the record — that it objected to the damages verdict ‘[u]pon completion of the trial’ and made an ‘oral motion’ asking the trial court to increase the damages award to $280,263.00,” Pyle wrote.

Failure to include the transcript in this case contravened Indiana Appellate Rule 9(F)(5), the panel noted.

“Our Indiana Supreme Court has addressed an appellant’s failure to include a transcript on appeal when factual issues are presented and held that ‘[a]lthough not fatal to the appeal, failure to include a transcript works a waiver of any specifications of error which depend upon the evidence,’” the panel ruled.

“Because Lifeline relies on the evidence presented during the jury trial in support of its argument challenging the amount of the jury’s damages verdict, we must conclude that Lifeline has waived any such damages argument and has failed to prove that the trial court abused its discretion by denying its motion to correct error,” Pyle wrote.



 
 

 

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  1. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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