Attorney wins summary judgment appeal

September 23, 2014

An Indianapolis attorney ensnared in a dispute between a land developer and a creditor was successful at convincing the Indiana Court of Appeals he is identical to the other defendants and should be granted summary judgment.

In 2011, Branham Corp. filed a complaint after Newland Resources LLC failed to satisfy a 2005 award for damages in the amount of $397,853.92. Branham alleged Newland distributed assets to its shareholders which depleted the company’s assets and made it unable to pay Branham’s contractual claim.

The trial court, citing that Branham filed the complaint well beyond the two-year statute of limitations, entered an order of summary judgment for Newland and several named defendants. However, it did grant Branham’s motion to dismiss without prejudice attorney Thomas Eckerle as a defendant.

Eckerle appealed, arguing he was no different than the other defendants who obtained summary judgment in their favor and that the dismissal instead of judgment defied “basic notions of justice and fairness.”

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed, reversing the order dismissing Eckerle and remanding for entry of summary judgment in his favor.

Eckerle was one the attorneys from the former Indianapolis law firm of Henderson Daily Withrow & Devoe who represented one of Newland’s members, White River Venture Partners and its manager Samual Sutphin.

After Henderson Daily ceased operations in December 2004, Eckerle continued his representation until May 2005 when Branham’s claims were denied in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

In The Branham Corporation v. Newland Resources, LLC; Samuel Sutphin; White River Funding Corp.; et al; Thomas N. Eckerle; Thomas N. Eckerle Prof. Corp. v. The Branham Corporation, 06A05-1311-CT-572, the Court of Appeals said the issue was one of whether Eckerle was entitled to summary judgment.

The panel unanimously found the trial court conducted summary judgment hearings and had correctly determined the statute of limitations had expired when Branham filed its complaint. Eckerle, the COA ruled, was entitled to judgment just like the other defendants.  



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