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Indiana Court Decisions - May 28 to June 10

June 18, 2014

7th Circuit Court of Appeals

June 6

Civil – Discrimination

Matthew Whitfield v. International Truck and Engine Corp.

13-1876

Because a District Court judge made several errors in analyzing the evidence brought by an African-American electrician in his lawsuit alleging he wasn’t hired because of his race, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed judgment in favor of the company.

Matthew Whitfield brought an action alleging failure to hire and violation of the Civil Rights Act against Navistar after the company continually hired less-qualified white applicants for open electrical positions. He first applied in 1996 but wasn’t immediately hired because some years of his experience could not be verified. In 1998, while his application was still pending, he received his journeyman card from the union which showed he had at least eight years of experience, as was necessary to be hired. But he was never hired.

According to the court record, the cover letter in his file had the word “Black” on it, but no one with Navistar could explain why it was there. In 2001, Whitfield and 26 others sued Navistar, alleging discrimination and a racially hostile work environment. Most people settled that case, but Whitfield’s hiring discrimination claim went to trial.

Chief Judge Richard Young refused to admit evidence from the class trial, which was proffered one day into trial, saying it was untimely. Young then determined Whitfield’s evidence didn’t imply any discrimination, he did not meet Navistar’s unstated qualifications for the job, and he did not offer any compelling comparator evidence.

The 7th Circuit found “troubling” the determination that there is no evidentiary link between the cover page and an intent to discriminate.

“First, this strikes us as evidence of racial coding, which strongly infers discrimination,” wrote Judge Richard Cudahy. “Second, the district court apparently ignored rather extensive evidence of the racially hostile environment within which this cover page was attached to Whitfield’s personnel file.”

Young concluded that the file could mean that “Black” was written for affirmative action purposes, but no one from Navistar offered that as an explanation. The 7th Circuit also concluded that the District Court committed a “more egregious” error by giving enormous weight to the fact that Navistar hired a female, African-American electrician around the time Whitfield’s application was pending.

“In doing so, the district court again shut its eyes to the entire record, choosing an implausible view of the evidence, and, at the same time, misapplied the law,” Cudahy wrote.

The evidence shows that Whitfield had more experience that many of the white electricians hired at the time he applied, and that some even had none of the skills that Navistar claimed Whitfield lacked, thus justifying their decision to not hire him. Any errors that were in Whitfield’s application were rectified by 1998, yet he was still not hired, the 7th Circuit noted.

The case is remanded for further proceedings.

Indiana Supreme Court

May 28

Miscellaneous – Wrongful Death/Medical Malpractice

Larry Robert David, II, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Lisa Marie David, Deceased v. William Kleckner, M.D.

49S02-1405-MI-355

A doctor who chose to perform just one biopsy instead of two on a woman who later was diagnosed with cervical cancer is not entitled to summary judgment on his defense asserting the medical malpractice statute of limitations, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.

A routine pap smear performed by Lisa David’s doctor, Dr. William Kleckner, detected abnormalities. The pathologist recommended an endocervical and endometrial biopsy. Kleckner only performed the endometrial biopsy Feb. 27, 2009. Those results “came back clear,” but in September 2009, Lisa David visited another doctor due to pain and discomfort. That doctor found a mass on her cervix. She was diagnosed with cancer, began treatment, but died March 25, 2011.

Sometime in February 2011, David’s husband became suspicious as to why Kleckner did not find any evidence of cancer or a tumor and obtained her medical records. That’s when he discovered Kleckner did not perform the endocervical biopsy. The wrongful death medical malpractice action was brought by Larry David July 1, 2011. The trial court granted summary judgment to Kleckner, who argued the complaint was barred by the statute of limitations.

The justices used their decision to clarify when a party may bring a medical malpractice action by examining caselaw on the matter.

“We conclude that neither Brinkman, Overton, nor Herron should be read to undermine the discovery opportunity element expressly recognized in Manley, Van Dusen and Booth. Thus, in determining whether a medical malpractice claim has been commenced within the medical malpractice statute of limitations, the discovery or trigger date is the point when a claimant either knows of the malpractice and resulting injury, or learns of facts that, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should lead to the discovery of the malpractice and the resulting injury,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote.

Kleckner established that the action was filed by David more than two years after the date of the alleged malpractice, but David is able to show there is a disputed fact as to when his wife could have discovered whether Kleckner’s failure to perform the endocervical biopsy caused or inhibited timely treatment.

“We find that it was not necessarily an unreasonable delay for this action to be commenced on July 1, 2011, and that the plaintiff may be found to have filed within a reasonable time if the trigger date occurred within the statutory window,” Dickson wrote.
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 June 3

Civil Tort – Nursing Home/Wrongful Death

Virginia E. Alldredge and Julia A. Luker, as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Venita Hargis v. The Good Samaritan Home, Inc.

82S01-1305-CT-363

A woman whose family learned her death in a nursing home followed an attack by another resident and was not the result of a fall as the family had been told may pursue a lawsuit against the facility, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.

Justices reversed a trial court grant of summary judgment for the nursing home. Vernita Hargis lived at Good Samaritan Home in Evansville in November 2006 when a daughter received a call from a nurse saying that Hargis was ill after suffering a fall. Hargis was hospitalized later that day and died a few days later from the head injury she sustained.

A nurse told one of Hargis’ daughters almost three years later that Hargis had been attacked by another resident. In December 2010, the family sued, and the nursing home was granted summary judgment in Vanderburgh Superior Court on its argument that the complaint was time-barred, and that even if fraudulent concealment occurred, that could not extend the statutory two-year filing period.

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, giving plaintiffs an opportunity to prove common-law fraud, but held that the Fraudulent Concealment statute could not apply because it was enacted after the Wrongful Death Act.

Though an issue of first impression, Justice Mark Massa wrote for the court, “Based upon our review of the historical and precedential records, we conclude that if a plaintiff makes the necessary factual showing, the Fraudulent Concealment Statute may apply to toll the Wrongful Death Act’s two-year filing period. In so holding, we break very little new ground.”  

“Public policy considerations further bolster our conclusion. Were we to hold otherwise, we would be incentivizing fraud and thus thwarting the obvious purpose of the Fraudulent Concealment Statute,” Massa wrote. “And our decision today is consistent with that of courts in other jurisdictions, which have routinely found fraud may toll a statutory filing period even when it is a condition precedent to the existence of the claim rather than a statute of limitation.”

The opinion traces statutes, common law and caselaw dating back more than 200 years to find numerous examples tolling in similar Indiana cases. The opinion opens with the final opinion written by Indiana’s fifth justice, Stephen C. Stevens – Raymond v. Simonson, an 1835 ruling –  in which he laments “the labyrinth of difficulties, discriminations, technicalities and shades that have gathered around the statute of limitations.”

In a footnote, Massa notes a biography of Stevens says after he resigned from the bench he returned to private practice. “(T)hirty-three years later, after losing his fortune in a bad railroad investment, he died destitute in the Indiana Hospital for the Insane.”

Criminal – Sexual Misconduct with Minor/Prosecutorial Misconduct

Bruce Ryan v. State of Indiana

49S02-1311-CR-734

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that while a Marion County prosecutor committed one instance of prosecutorial misconduct during a man’s trial for sexual misconduct with a minor, the effect of this misconduct did not make a fair trial for the defendant impossible.

“We recognize only a single instance of prosecutorial misconduct, namely that the prosecutor improperly urged the jury to convict the defendant for reasons other than his own guilt. But we decline to conclude that the trial court erred by not correcting the prosecutor’s misstatements,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote.

The justices found no prosecutorial misconduct when the prosecutor commented on Bruce Ryan’s constitutional rights to a jury trial or on the truthfulness of the victim.

Ryan, an eight-grade science teacher, was charged with three counts of Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor after he had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. He was convicted on two counts, and on appeal, argued the convictions should be overturned due to remarks made by the deputy prosecutor during closing arguments.

The prosecutor alluded to “the bigger picture,” mentioned other perpetrators such as a teacher or pastor, and then implored the jury to “send the message that we’re not going to allow people to do this.”

“This clearly invited the jury to convict this defendant for reasons other than his own guilt, therefore constituting improper conduct,” Dickson wrote.

But Ryan’s failure to contemporaneously object and enable the trial court to take correct action resulted in procedural default of his appellate claim. The high court found no fundamental error occurred, requiring reversal of his convictions.

“Without question, the characterization of defense counsel’s line of argumentation as ‘how guilty people walk’ and a ‘trick,’ is inconsistent with the requirement that lawyers ‘demonstrate respect for the legal system and those who serve it, including … other lawyers,’” Dickson wrote. “But the defendant has failed to establish that, under all of the circumstances, such improper comments placed him in a position of grave peril to which he would not have been subjected to otherwise.”

“While we do not endorse the prosecutor’s trial tactics in this case, we affirm the judgment of the trial court,” Dickson wrote.

Justice Robert Rucker concurred in result without a separate opinion.  
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 June 5

Post Conviction – Language Translation/Plea

Victor Ponce v. State of Indiana

20S04-1308-PC-533

A non-native English speaker was able to show the Indiana Supreme Court that, during his guilty plea hearing, he was not properly advised of the constitutional rights he was waiving by pleading guilty. The justices reversed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.

Victor Ponce agreed to plead guilty to one count of Class A felony delivery of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. He had an interpreter during his guilty plea hearing. She was uncertified because in 1999, at the time of his hearing, Indiana had not yet created the Court Interpreter Certification Program. Ponce told the court he understood and spoke a little English. He indicated he was able to understand the proceedings through his interpreter.

In 2011, he filed a petition for post-conviction relief, contending his plea was not entered knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily because the interpreter failed to accurately translate Ponce’s Boykin rights.  The post-conviction court denied the petition, which the Court of Appeals affirmed.

“Here there is no question that the trial court correctly articulated the specific rights enumerated in Boykin. The problem, however, is that those rights were inaccurately interpreted. Ponce may very well have understood exactly what the interpreter said but as the record shows what the interpreter said had little to do with what the trial court had actually advised,” Justice Robert Rucker wrote. “Had the trial court uttered the words relayed to Ponce by the interpreter, we doubt that a court of review would hesitate to declare that Ponce had not been given his Boykin advisements. Thus, we are of the view that an advisement from the mouth of the court-appointed interpreter instead of that of the trial judge to be a distinction without a difference. In sum, we conclude that Ponce has demonstrated that his 1999 guilty plea hearing was not conducted in accordance with the mandates of Boykin,” he continued.

And the justices found the state failed to show that the record, as a whole, nonetheless demonstrated that Ponce understood his constitutional rights and waived them. They remanded his case for further proceedings.

“To declare that a defendant with limited English proficiency who received an incorrect interpretation of the trial court’s Boykin advisements should be equally culpable for his guilty plea as a defendant who is fluent in the English language and received an accurate and uninterrupted advisement directly from the trial court would work a great injustice not only on the LEP defendant, but on the integrity of our system as a whole,” Rucker wrote.

Indiana Court of Appeals

May 28

Agency Action – Unemployment Benefits/Notice of Hearing

Melisa R. Digbie v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and Eaglecare LLC

93A02-1312-EX-1054

The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new evidentiary hearing on the merits of a woman’s application for unemployment benefits after holding that the Department of Workforce Development didn’t prove that it mailed notice of a hearing to the woman.

Melisa Digbie, who worked for Eaglecare LLC for six months, was receiving unemployment benefits when Eaglecare appealed to the DWD. The department scheduled a hearing before an administrative law judge Aug. 6, but neither Digbie nor her counsel appeared. The ALJ held that she was ineligible for unemployment benefits.

After learning she missed the hearing, Digbie appealed. Both parties appeared before a different ALJ on the issue of whether she could show good cause for not appearing at the meeting. That ALJ said she could not; Digbie appealed to the review board of the DWD, and it affirmed. The review board found that the evidence established a rebuttable presumption that the DWD had properly served Digbie notice of the hearing.

DWD failed to present any evidence to prove it mailed Dibgie notice of the Aug. 6 hearing, the COA pointed out. The DWD suggested that it was entitled to the rebuttable presumption of service because the notice of the Aug. 6 hearing was admitted into evidence by the first ALJ, so it was already part of the record when it was remanded to the second ALJ and did not require readmission.

“But the admission into evidence of the notice is not proof of mailing that notice,” Judge Edward Najam wrote.

“[T]hat the notice itself purports to state the ‘Mailing Date of this Document’ is not proof that it was actually mailed. To hold otherwise would permit countless letters to be deemed delivered simply because the letters themselves are written to say so,” Najam continued. “Moreover, satisfying this evidentiary burden is hardly difficult. For example, the agency need only offer testimony that the notice was mailed or produce evidence of a contemporaneous notation in the claimant’s file, similar to a CCS entry, that the notice was placed in the mail on a specific date.”

Because the DWD didn’t present evidence it mailed the notice, it was not entitled to the rebuttable presumption Digbie received notice of the Aug. 6 hearing, the court held.

Criminal – Batson Challenge

Tyrece Robertson v. State of Indiana

49A05-1310-CR-487

A Marion County trial court erred when it overruled a man’s Batson challenge contesting the state’s use of a peremptory challenge to strike an African-American juror, the Indiana Court of Appeals held. The appeals court overturned Tyrece Robertson’s convictions and ordered a new trial.

Robertson was charged with Class D felony attempted residential entry and Class B misdemeanor criminal mischief after allegedly trying to break into an apartment. During jury selection at his trial, the state used peremptory strikes to remove several potential jurors from the venier, including juror Lisenbee, who is African-American. Robertson raised a Batson challenge, which was overruled. Robertson was found guilty as charged.

“Both parties acknowledge that, in this case, neither Robertson nor the State had an opportunity to conduct voir dire of the other African-American member of the venire. Because the trial court did not move to the second step in the Batson analysis — requiring the State to present a facially race-neutral reason for using a peremptory strike — the court did not conclude that Robertson had established a prima facie case of discrimination,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote. “Yet, as Robertson points out, the only African-American juror that was subject to voir dire — Venireperson Lisenbee — was stricken from the jury. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the State used its peremptory challenges to strike the only African-American member of the venire.”

As such, Robertson’s rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution were violated, the judges ruled, so he should be retried.
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May 30

Civil Tort – Multidistrict Litigation

Depuy Orthopaedics Inc. and Johnson & Johnson v. Travis Brown, et al.

49A02-1304-CT-332

Plaintiffs from Mississippi and Virginia may not pursue litigation in Marion County over defective replacement hip devices manufactured in northern Indiana, the Court of Appeals ruled.

The panel reversed denial of a motion to dismiss filed by the device makers, and remanded to Marion Superior Judge John Hanley with instructions to grant dismissal.

The case centers on the ASR XL Acetabular System prosthetic hip implant that was sold and distributed by Warsaw-based Depuy Orthopaedics from 2005 to 2010 and later recalled. Eighteen people who received the implant in surgeries in Virginia and one in Mississippi filed this case in 2012.

Judge Rudy R. Pyle III wrote for the panel that the devices are the subject of multi-district litigation in federal courts, and that the plaintiffs can file elsewhere, but that the trial court erred in denying dismissal on the basis of forum non conveniens governed by Indiana Trial Rule 4.4(C).

Pyle wrote that a conflict-of-laws analysis and Trial Rule 4.4(C)(3) require the case to be heard where the hip replacements were implanted.

“(W)e see no evidence in the record that Virginia or Mississippi are inadequate forums. In fact, during oral argument, the plaintiffs’ desire for trial in Indiana focused on securing an earlier trial date rather than any deprivation of their rights if trial took place elsewhere. There has been no showing by the plaintiffs that trial in their home forum will deprive them of any remedy or subject them to unfair treatment,” Pyle wrote.

“We reverse and remand to the trial court for issuance of the appropriate order dismissing this case for refiling in Virginia or Mississippi,” he wrote.
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June 2

Criminal – Child Molestation/Prosecutorial Misconduct

Brandon Brummett v. State of Indiana

49A02-1304-CR-378

A man’s child molesting convictions were vacated and he was granted a new trial by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which found prosecutorial misconduct amounting to fundamental error. It’s the second reversal and remand attributable to the same prosecutor, the court noted.

Brandon Brummett was 23 when he was convicted of molesting two cousins who were 16 and 12 years old at the time of the alleged incidents, some of which took place in West Virginia, where the girls’ father – Brummett’s uncle – was imprisoned. The girls’ mother encouraged them to spend time with relatives on their father’s side, the opinions states.

Brummett was arrested after one of the girls told a friend that he had molested her, and that friend and the girl told the girl’s mother.

Judge John Baker wrote that a Marion County prosecutor was belligerent toward Brummett as he testified on the stand, that the prosecutor offered improper vouching and commentary on the justness of the cause, and that the prosecutor impugned the integrity of defense counsel and demeaned its role.

Brummett preserved none of the issues for appeal, but he succeeded in proving both prosecutorial misconduct and fundamental error, Baker wrote.

“The cumulative effect of this misconduct amounted to fundamental error, as it placed the defendant in grave peril and made a fair trial impossible. Consequently, the defendant is entitled to a new trial,” Baker wrote.

Reversing the conviction on those grounds, the panel waded into Brummett’s other objections regarding the evidence against him. He objected to the admission of evidence of uncharged acts and also asked the court to find the testimony of one of the girls incredibly dubious. She alleged he fondled her vagina as the family played a game at a table during a visit to West Virginia.

“While we agree with Brummett that (the) testimony might stretch the limits of credulity, this is not the test for incredible dubiosity. K.A.’s testimony does not run so counter to human experience that no reasonable person could believe it,” Baker wrote. “Therefore, this Court will not invade the province of the jury by reweighing the evidence. Thus, this argument must fail.”

While evidence of an uncharged act was improperly admitted it didn’t rise to fundamental error. In offering guidance for retrial, the court noted that because Brummett didn’t object contemporaneously to the admission of evidence regarding alleged uncharged out-of-state incidents, there was no fundamental error, though the evidence may have been improperly admitted.

“We note that the circumstances in this case in regard to prosecutorial misconduct are similar to those in Ryan v. State. 992 N.E.2d 776 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), trans. granted. The prosecutor in this case also prosecuted the defendant in Ryan,” the panel observed in a footnote.

In that case, similar prosecutorial misconduct resulted in reversal and remand for new trial on Bruce Ryan’s convictions of two counts of Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor. Justices granted transfer in that case last November, and ruled in early June that while one instance of prosecutorial misconduct did occur, the effect of this misconduct did not make a fair trial for the defendant impossible.
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June 4

Civil Plenary – Insurance/First Impression

Indiana Insurance Company v. Patricia Kopetsky, and KB Home Indiana Inc.

49A02-1304-PL-340

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ordered a trial on the issue of whether the known loss doctrine would bar coverage of an insurance policy held by the owner of land sold for a housing development that later was found to have been contaminated with toxic waste. A builder sued the landowner, claiming he knew of the potential contamination and failed to inform the builder.

George Kopetsky and Durabuilders, now KB Home Indiana Inc., entered into an agreement in 1998 where KB Home would purchase lots in a housing development being developed by Kopetsky. He indicated in the agreement that he was unaware of any contamination in Cedar Park at the time. KB Home became aware that some of the lots it had purchased contained contaminants from a nearby business and filed its lawsuit in 2007 against Kopetsky and those responsible for the contamination.

KB Home alleged that Kopetsky knew in 2002 some of the lots were contaminated but waited until 2004 to tell KB home of the problem. KB purchased more than 60 lots during that time.

Kopetsky’s commercial general liability insurance carrier, Indiana Insurance Co., in 2009 sought a declaration that it had no duty to defend or indemnify him in the lawsuit. The trial court ruled against the insurance company. His wife, Patricia, was substituted as a party after Kopetsky passed away in 2010.

The case brings up an issue of first impression. The policies preclude coverage for bodily injury or property damage for which the insured is obligated to pay damages by reason of the assumption of the liability in a contract or agreement. The judges agreed with Kopetsky that while he may be held liable for entering into the agreement and breaching it, this is not the same thing as assuming liability pursuant to it.

“Although our research has uncovered no Indiana case precisely on point, today we explicitly endorse the proposition that ‘assumed’ liability is liability originally incurred by a third party but then taken on by another,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote. “Today we join those jurisdictions who have held that contractual liability exclusions in CGL policies bar coverage not for liability incurred by a contract breach but, rather, for liability assumed from a third party, which seems to be the majority position by a wide margin.”

The judges held that KB Home successfully alleged “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” pursuant to the policies, and that the policies’ “expected and intended” and “contractual liability” exclusions do not work to bar coverage. But the designated evidence generates a question of fact as to whether the known loss doctrine would bar coverage. There is evidence showing that Kopetsky was aware of the contamination in Cedar Park before the effective dates of the first of his policies with Indiana Insurance.
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June 5

Criminal – Illegal Sentencing Limitation

Larry D. Russell, Jr. v. State of Indiana

84A01-1312-CR-532

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a man’s 10-year sentence resulting from a guilty plea for abusing his adopted teenaged children, holding that the sentence was based on an incorrect application of I.C. 35-50-1-2.

Larry Russell faced multiple felony charges for the severe neglect and abuse of his children over the course of three months, but agreed to plead guilty to five counts of neglect of a dependent as Class C felonies and two counts of Class C felony criminal confinement in exchange for the dismissal of the four remaining counts.  

The plea agreement left sentencing up to the judge, but capped it at 10 years pursuant to I.C. 35-50-1-2(c). The judge, bound by the agreement, limited his sentence to 10 years, although based on the sentencing statement, would have handed down a longer sentence.

The Court of Appeals reversed his sentence because it was based on an erroneous application of the statute. His offenses do not constitute an “episode” subject to the limitations imposed by that statute. Based on these facts, the sentence imposed contravened the statute and is an illegal sentence, Judge Edward Najam wrote.

“Here, the parties attempt to treat the ten-year sentence as severable. But sentencing is a material element of every plea agreement, and we cannot say either that Russell would have pleaded guilty under the plea agreement without the ten-year cap on his sentence or that the State would have agreed to the terms of the plea agreement without its erroneous understanding of Indiana Code Section 35-50-1-2,” he continued. And the sentencing statement indicates that, but for the statutory limitation, the trial court would have sentenced Russell to 24 years executed.

“While we acknowledge the local prosecutor’s discretion in such matters, there is no question that this case is exactly the type of case that the State should be expending its time and resources prosecuting. And we cannot sanction an illegal sentence. While we respect the consideration that the victims should be spared the burden of testifying at trial, this concern does not justify enforcement of an illegal agreement,” Najam wrote.

The judges remanded to the trial court for Russell to have the option to proceed with the current plea agreement without the illegal sentencing limitation. If he goes that route, the judges noted he would face a possible maximum sentence of 56 years. If Russell doesn’t exercise that option within 30 days after this decision was been certified, then the plea agreement shall be vacated.
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June 10

Civil Plenary – Student Transportation/Ride for Fee

Lora Hoagland v. Franklin Township Community School Corporation

49A02-1301-PL-44

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that Indiana students cannot be charged to ride the bus to and from school. The judges found an arrangement between a school corporation and a private company that required parents to pay for their children to ride the bus violated the state constitution.

After the property tax caps went into effect in 2010, schools across the state had to find ways to cut costs. Franklin Township Community School Corporation voted to eliminate student transportation for the 2011-2012 school year, and it later contracted with Central Indiana Educational Service Center to provide transportation services to and from school for a fee. The township decided to continue with the pay-to-ride plan even after Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued two official opinions on the matter. Zoeller found, based on Nagy v. Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corp., 844 N.E.2d 481 (Ind. 2006), the plan violated Article 8, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution.

Two parents filed a class-action lawsuit, after which the school board voted to resume busing its students to and from school at no charge. The trial court granted summary judgment for Franklin Township, holding that the Indiana Tort Claims Act barred the plaintiff parents’ claims, that the plaintiffs weren’t entitled to monetary damages and the school corporation did not violate the state constitution by ending busing to and from school.

“Applying Nagy to the facts of this case, we conclude that Franklin Township acted unconstitutionally. Our legislature has determined that school corporations ‘may’ transport their students to and from school. Thus, pursuant to Nagy, the legislature has determined that transportation to and from school qualifies as a part of a uniform system of public education,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote.

The judges determined Lora Hoagland is entitled to declaratory judgment to that effect and remanded with instructions. The judges also concluded that the ITCA does not apply to Hoagland’s state constitutional claim – an issue of first impression in state courts. “Hoagland’s claim sounds in Indiana’s Education Clause, not tort law,” they held.

The Court of Appeals affirmed that Hoagland may not seek monetary damages as there is no express or implied right to do so under the Indiana Constitution.•

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