Failure to sign order sends dog dispute back to court

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Noting the plaintiff may want to let a sleeping dog lie, the Indiana Court of Appeals remanded a decision to the trial court, finding the judge had not signed the order awarding custody of a dog named Snickers.

Kevin Campbell filed a claim in April 2016 with Johnson Superior Court seeking the canine’s return and $6,000 in damages. The magistrate listened to both sides then issued an order in June 2016, holding that Snickers remain with Irenea George and denying the monetary claim. However, the order was never signed or adopted by a judge.

Campbell appealed and the Court of Appeals took one dispositive issue of whether the magistrate’s ruling was a final appealable order.

The Court of Appeals found that Indiana Code 33-23-5-5 prohibits a magistrate from entering a final appealable order in small claims cases. Since the order at the center of the dispute in Kevin Campbell v. Irenea George, 41A01-1607-SC-1723, was never signed by the judge, Campbell did not waive the issue and the case is remanded rather than dismissed.

“The magistrate’s order was not a final appealable order by statute,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the court. “…Of course, Campbell may simply elect to let a sleeping dog lie and decline to pursue the matter further, in which case the magistrate’s order will remain final but unappealable.”

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