Indiana high court to hear Simon-Starbucks dispute

December 27, 2017

The Indiana Supreme court will decide whether Starbucks Corp. can close 77 Teavana stores in malls across the country after granting an appeal in Simon Property Group’s case against the coffee giant. The high court asserted its authority to assume jurisdiction in cases it deems an emergency.

Indianapolis-based Simon sued Starbucks in August, seeking a permanent injunction that would have prohibited the coffee retailer from breaching leases with Teavana stores that extended as far as January 2027. Starbucks announced in July that it would close all 379 of its Teavana stores over the next year, including locations at Circle Center, Castleton Square and Greenwood park malls, the Fashion Mall at Keystone, the Southlake Mall in Merrillville and University Park Mall in Mishawaka.

The Marion Superior Court granted the temporary injunction earlier this month, prompting Starbucks' emergency motion for a Rule 56(A) transfer. The high court granted transfer in the dispute last week. Rule 56(A) permits the court to assume jurisdiction in a case that would typically first be heard by the Indiana Court of Appeals “upon a showing that the appeal involves a substantial question of law of great public importance and that an emergency exists requiring a speedy determination.”

The court has also agreed to decide whether family members can enter into settlement agreements regarding the distribution of an estate’s assets before the testator dies. The court agreed to hear In the Matter of the Supervised Estate of Gary D. Kent, 55S01-1712-ES-747. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld an agreement in that case that dictated how Gary Kent’s assets would be distributed — an agreement that his children had entered into at his request before his death.

However, a week after signing the agreement, Kent’s son, John, sent notice that he was rescinding the agreement. John Kent then attempted to probate the will after his father’s death, but Cynthia Kerr, John’s sister, asked the trial court to enforce the settlement agreement. The trial court rejected her summary judgment motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed, writing on an issue of first impression that Indiana Code section 29-1-9-1 permits family settlement agreements that are executed prior to a decedent’s death.

The high court also granted transfer last week to the case of State of Indiana v. Pebble Stafford, 39S04-1712-CR-749. In that case, Pebble Stafford was sentenced to time in the Department of Correction pursuant to a plea agreement, then later received a sentence modification after the trial court determined the DOC could offer her no further rehabilitation.

The state appealed that decision, but the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in October, determining that statutory language does not permit a person to “waive the right to sentence modification as part of a plea agreement — any plea agreement… .”

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court have not yet been set for any of those cases.

Finally, the Supreme Court granted transfer to Destin Dean Jones v. State of Indiana, 84S05-1712-CR-741, and issued an opinion last week that upheld Destin Jones’ convictions of attempt and conspiracy to rob a Terre Haute gas station. In the court’s opinion, Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote Jones’ abandonment defense was disproved.

The justices denied transfer to 23 other cases last week. All transfer decisions can be viewed here.


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