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COA: Attorney’s calendar mistake doesn’t support relief from judgment

September 18, 2014

The Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed with a woman’s argument that because she was twice granted extension of time to respond to a summary judgment motion involving her credit card debt, the trial court’s discretion to consider a belated response was preserved.

Midland Funding LLC was assigned Cheryl Welton’s credit card account, which had an unpaid balance of more than $4,500. Midland filed a lawsuit to collect the debt, and Welton failed to respond. Default judgment was entered against Welton, but she filed a Trial Rile 60(B) motion for relief from judgment, alleging she hadn’t received a copy of the complaint and that the obligation was satisfied in 2010 in a compromised amount.

The trial court granted her motion, and she filed an answer to the complaint. Then Midland sought summary judgment. Welton sought – and was granted – two extensions of time to respond. But when the third deadline came and went without her response, the trial court granted Midland’s motion for summary judgment.

A week later, Welton filed another Trial Rule 60(B) motion for relief, claiming that her attorney was in the process of forming a new law firm and “through mistake and neglect” and in part because of a new scheduling system, the response date in this matter was added to the calendar after the actual date. The trial court denied her motion.

Judge Michael Barnes noted that the court appreciated Welton’s predicament, but the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying her motion for relief from judgment in Cheryl Welton v. Midland Funding, LLC as Assignee of Chase Bank USA, NA as Issuer of Disney Consumer Credit Card, 49A05-1309-PL-479.

The plain language of Trial Rule 56(I) allows a trial court to alter a time limit if a motion for extension of time is timely filed. It does not vest a trial court with the discretion to allow Welton to file an untimely response simply because she had previously filed a timely motion for extension of time, Barnes continued.

“Even if Welton’s motion for relief from judgment had been granted, Welton would not have been permitted to belatedly respond or designate evidence in opposition to Midland’s motion for summary judgment. Without a response, it is hard to imagine how the outcome of the summary judgment proceedings would have been different. Because vacating the judgment would have been an empty exercise, Welton has not shown she has a meritorious defense to Midland’s motion for summary judgment,” he wrote.

 

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