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Trial rules require sufficient postage

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has a simple message for litigants: if you are filing anything by certified mail, make sure to put enough postage on your paperwork. Otherwise, don’t expect to use that insufficient postage as an excuse to get around trial rules and court deadlines.

In Melanie Webster v. Walgreen Co., No. 55A01-1110-CT-442, the court affirmed a judgment by Morgan Superior Judge Jane Spencer Craney that denied a woman’s motion to amend the filing date of her complaint in order to comply with the filing deadline.

Melanie Webster filed a complaint against Walgreens after she slipped and fell Dec. 17, 2008, outside the Mooresville store, alleging the business was negligent in failing to remove ice and snow from a sidewalk. Four days before the two-year statute of limitations expired and barred the suit, Webster’s attorney, C. Stuart Carter, weighed the envelope with the complaint, summons, appearance and filing fee to send by certified mail. But the postal service reweighed the envelope and determined an additional 17 cents was owed. The Morgan County Clerk’s Office declined to pay the extra postage and the envelope was returned a few days after the statute of limitations had run.

After Carter reweighed and sent the envelope back, the local clerk’s office stamped it filed Dec. 22, 2010. Walgreens objected to a request to amend the filing date to when the envelope had initially been sent within the two-year window, and after a hearing the trial court denied Webster’s motion and found the filing untimely.

On appeal, the three-judge panel held that “mailing” for purposes of the Indiana Trial Rules requires the sender to affix sufficient postage, and since that didn’t happen here the original complaint was untimely.

The appellate judges cited Comer v. Gohil, 664 N.E.2d 389 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996), a medical malpractice case in which the panel determined that “affixing a sufficient amount of postage to the envelope was a matter wholly in [the plaintiff’s] hands” and that mailing the complaint with insufficient postage did not result in the complaint being filed. The Indiana Supreme Court issued a similar holding about filing fees three years earlier.

The court noted that Webster presents no authority suggesting that sending a complaint with insufficient postage constitutes “mailing” for purposes of Trial Rule 5, and she did not show public policy favors allowing her case to proceed.


 

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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