Court only corrects ‘immaterial’ errors in opinion on rehearing

After granting rehearing to an August opinion to correct “immaterial factual errors,” the Indiana Court of Appeals reaffirmed a decision that upheld allegedly defamatory statements made by an attorney were protected.

In August, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in the case of Thomas N. Eckerle v. Katz & Korin, PC and Michael W. Hile, 49A02-1608-CT-1894, that allegedly defamatory statements made by attorney Michael Hile against another attorney, Thomas Eckerle, were protected under absolute privilege. That was because the statements were relevant to a bankruptcy case to which Eckerle was a party and in which Hile was serving as counsel.

Eckerle filed a petition rehearing on multiple grounds, but the appellate court granted the petition for only one purpose: “correcting two immaterial factual errors.” The first of those errors related to Paragraph 4 of the August opinion, in which the court wrote that Branham Corp., another party to the case involved Eckerle and Hile, filed for bankruptcy in 2004. The parties now agree that Branham did not file for bankruptcy, so the appellate panel corrected that error in the Friday opinion.

The same paragraph also stated that Eckerle was a defendant in a case brought by Branham alleging conversion, conspiracy and breach of contract. That statement was repeated in Paragraph 5 of the opinion.

But rather than being a defendant in that case, Branham had named Eckerle as a garnishee-defendant in a 2011 proceedings supplement. Thus, the paragraphs were corrected to omit the erroneous information about Eckerle and to include his correct status as a garnishee-defendant.

“These corrections are necessary to clarify the history of the proceedings leading up to the issues in this case, but they do not affect our analysis,” Judge Melissa May wrote Friday.

The appellate panel affirmed its original opinion, including its holding, in all other respects.

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