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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. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. 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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