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Former JA chief loses defamation appeal against attorney

June 30, 2015

The former president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Indiana lost a defamation appeal against an Indianapolis attorney Tuesday. The Indiana Supreme Court ruled the complaint was time-barred.

Jeffrey M. Miller named Ice Miller LLP partner Kristine C. Danz in a lawsuit that claimed she defamed him as he was attempting to obtain a job with the city of Indianapolis. Before Danz’s identity was known, Miller had named her “John Doe #8, a partner, employee or agent of Ice Miller.”

Danz was granted summary judgment at the trial court, which the Court of Appeals affirmed. Justices of the Supreme Court agreed, finding that Miller had reason to know Danz’s identity long before she was named as a defendant in one of many suits Miller and his wife, Cynthia, filed.

“Finding that the existence and identity of Kristine C. Danz was not unknown to the plaintiff before he commenced this action, yet he waited until after expiration of the applicable statute of limitations to substitute her name for John Doe #8, we affirm summary judgment in Danz's favor,” Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the court in  Jeffrey M. Miller and Cynthia S. Miller v. Kristine C. Danz, 49S05-1506-PL-400.

“It is undisputed that all of Miller's claims against Danz are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. ... The parties also agree that Miller's cause of action arose, at the latest, on March 19, 2010, the day Miller learned through a conversation with Chris Cotterill, then Chief of Staff for the Mayor of Indianapolis, that others had made statements to Cotterill that may have influenced his decision not to hire Miller. Both parties argue in part that Trial Rule 17(F) is limited by Trial Rule 15(C).  We disagree,” Dickson wrote.

“In this matter of first impression, we find Trial Rule 15(C) does not supersede Trial Rule 17(F) nor does it apply to the 'John Doe' situation before us and affirm the trial court's judgment on the proper application of Trial Rule 17(F) alone.”

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