A filing fee that was $2 less than required for a negligence claim in Clark County but was corrected and paid in full after the statute of limitations ran out may not proceed, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Thursday.
A clerk noticed that when Thomas Palmer filed a negligence action against Natasha F. Hortenberry in 2010 related to an auto accident, a check for $137 accompanied the complaint, but the fee should have been $139. The court clerk notified Palmer of the mistake, and he mailed a check for $2 the next day, and the court granted his motion that the complaint be treated as timely filed.
That same day, an attorney appeared for Hortenberry and asked the court to set aside the order treating the suit as timely, but the court denied the motion.
“Because Indiana Trial Rule 3 and Indiana Supreme Court precedent clearly indicate that paying the filing fee is required for the commencement of an action, we conclude that the trial court erred by denying Hortenberry’s motion. Therefore, we reverse and remand,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the panel in Natasha F. Hortenberry v. Thomas Palmer, 10A04-1301-CT-17.
The trial court relied on Trial Rule 1 language to find “an inadvertent clerical error (a $2.00 shortfall of the fee that was only recently increased) should not deprive Plaintiff of a right to litigate his claim in court.”
The appeals panel said the court should have instead looked to the “bright line rule” it believes was set by the Supreme Court. “We conclude that the trial court erred by relying on Trial Rule 1 to allow the case to proceed rather than applying the clear language of Trial Rule 3, and we reverse the ruling of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” Crone wrote.