A negligence case against a Hendricks County church daycare accused of causing an infant’s catastrophic brain injury must be transferred to Hendricks County after the Indiana Court of Appeals determined the trial court erred in finding Marion County was a preferred venue.
In January 2016, Jax Wedgewood, an infant, began attending daycare services at the Scribbles Ministry of Pittsboro Christian Church in Hendricks County, where Christeen Michael was a caregiver. Jax suffered a brain injury soon after starting at the daycare, so his parents and grandfather sued the facility, Michael and director Debbie Spurlock for negligence. They also sought a declaratory judgment to determine whether the Indiana Medicaid Plan had a lien on their recovery.
In response, the defendants moved to transfer venue to Hendricks County, arguing Marion County was not a preferred venue. Jax’s family, however, claimed Marion County was a preferred venue under Indiana Trial Rule 75(A)(5) because the Family and Social Services Administration — which was implicated under the declaratory judgment action — is a governmental organization located in Marion County.
The Marion Superior Court agreed with the plaintiffs and denied the motion to transfer venue, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed Friday. Judge Rudolph Pyle wrote for the unanimous appellate panel that FSSA’s “incidental connection” to the litigation was insufficient to support preferred venue in Marion County.
“Specifically, … FSSA played no role in the underlying litigation, which involved an alleged catastrophic brain injury to an infant,” Pyle wrote. “Further, the alleged injury occurred in Hendricks County. In addition, all of the Plaintiffs and Defendants resided in or were headquartered in Hendricks County.”
Given those facts, the panel determined Hendricks County is a preferred venue and, thus, remanded the cases to grant the defendants’ motion and transfer the case to Hendricks County.
The case is Scribbles, LLC, Pittsboro Christian Church, d/b/a Scribbles Ministry of Pittsboro Christian Church, Christeen Michael, and Debbie Spurlock v. Camden “Jax” Wedgewood, by next of friend Brian Scott Wedgewood, Hannah Jade Hill and Camden Riley Wedgewood, 49A04-1706-CT-1434.