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COA dismisses appeal of agreed judgment

June 17, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld long-standing precedent when it dismissed an appeal of an agreed judgment between a law firm and a couple that accused the firm of malpractice.

Richard C. and Patricia A. Gallops sued Shambaugh Kast Beck & Williams LLP after Nathan Williams defended the Gallopses against claims they breached various fiduciary duties while housing and caring for an elderly relative in her final years. Shambaugh filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted on three of the five instances of malpractice alleged by the Gallopses.

The case proceeded to trial on the other two charges and as the case proceeded, the Gallopses became convinced they were not going to win, so they entered into an agreed judgment with the firm. In the agreement, a judgment for Schambaugh was entered on the court’s docket as final judgment, and had the same weight as if the case had proceeded to trial on the remaining issues. The Gallopses then appealed the preliminary orders that preceded the agreed judgment.

In an opinion written by Senior Judge John Sharpnack, the COA said it first had to answer whether a party could appeal from an agreed judgment, and after reviewing cases and precedence, found the answer to be no. Sharpnack cited State v. Huebner, 230 Ind. 461, 467, 104 N.E.2d 385, 387 (1952), Indianapolis, D. & W. Ry. Co. v. Sands, 133 Ind. 433, 32 N.E. 722, 724-25 (1892), Pond v. McNellis, 845 N.E.2d 1043 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006), and other cases that supported the position that an agreed judgment could not be appealed.

The Gallopses acknowledged the precedent, but cited Bemenderfer v. Williams, 745 N.E.2d 212 (Ind. 2001) and Polk v. State, 683 N.E.2d 567 (Ind. 1997). However, in those cases, the trial court had intended its order to be reviewable on appeal, and there is nothing in the agreed judgment in this case that gives that impression here. Also, the panel in Bemenderfer accepted appellate review, which the COA declined to do in this case.

The case is Richard C. Gallops and Patricia A. Gallops v. Shambaugh Kast Beck & Williams, LLP, 02A03-1509-CT-1401.

 

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