Subcontractor's suit belongs in Hamilton County

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The Indiana Court of Appeals Thursday reversed the denial by an Allen Circuit judge to remove a lawsuit brought in that county to Hamilton County, where two parties to the lawsuit had agreed in a contract any legal claims would be handled.

In City of Carmel, through its Redevelopment Commission v. Crider & Crider, Inc., Hagerman Construction Corporation, 02A04-1208-PL-416, the city of Carmel argued that the lawsuit brought in Allen County by Crider & Crider Inc. against Hagerman Construction Company and the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, which involved a cross-claim brought by Hagerman against the CRC, should be heard in Hamilton County. The CRC and Hagerman entered into a contract for the company to be the prime contractor to perform limestone and concrete work during the construction of the Carmel Performing Arts Center. Their contract dictated that lawsuits should be filed in Hamilton County.

Crider, who was hired as a subcontractor by Hagerman to perform excavation work, sued Hagerman and CRC, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Felts denied the CRC’s request the complaint be transferred to Hamilton County. Hagerman filed a cross-complaint against the CRC alleging it should be liable for any damages recovered by Crider on its complaint against Hagerman.

Hagerman and Crider claim that Allen County is the preferred venue under Trial Rule 75; the CRC maintains Trial Rule 21 applies.

“While the preferred venue analysis in Trial Rule 75 would normally govern a case where the plaintiff has not contractually agreed to a particular venue, Trial Rule 75 is trumped in this case by Trial Rule 21(B),” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote. “After Crider filed its complaint against CRC and Hagerman, Hagerman filed a cross-claim against CRC. Due to the venue selection clause between Hagerman and CRC, it is clear that venue lies in Hamilton County as to the cross-claim between them.”

“All of the parties here agree that the original complaint and the cross-claim are ‘inextricably intertwined’ and should be decided together. Thus, Hamilton County is the appropriate venue for the entire matter,” the court concluded.


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