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COA affirms civil suit rulings against ex-insurer convicted of theft

April 24, 2019

A formerly licensed insurer investigated and convicted of felony theft failed to convince an appellate panel that judgment was erroneously granted to the Indiana State Department of Insurance and a Putnam County prosecutor on the pleadings of his suit against them.

In September 2008, Bradley Buchanan entered into a settlement agreement with the IDOI in which he agreed to surrender his license to practice and sell insurance, in exchange for the IDOI terminating ongoing investigations it was conducting against him.

That agreement reserved IDOI’s right to “cooperate with any criminal investigation that has been, or may be, initiated as a result of the allegations in this matter,” which eventually came to fruition when state and local law enforcement began investigating the acts underlying Buchanan’s surrender of his license.

Buchanan later pleaded guilty to felony theft and was sentenced to probation and home detention with the Putnam County Community Corrections Program. While on home detention, a search warrant was issued for Buchanan’s residence by police, in consultation with the prosecutor.   

That search resulted in the seizure of various vehicles and led to the arrest of Buchanan. The prosecutor filed various theft charges against Buchanan based on the items seized, but the charges were later dismissed.

Buchanan sued both defendants, first alleging IDOI breached its contract by cooperating with state and local law enforcement in investigations against him. He simultaneously alleged the prosecutor maliciously and falsely obtained and executed a search warrant for Buchanan’s residence, and that false charges were filed against him.

Specifically, he alleged claims of trespass, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, invasion of privacy, false arrest, false imprisonment, improper confinement, emotional distress and defamation against the prosecutor.

IDOI moved for judgment on the pleadings under Indiana Trial Rule 12(C), and the prosecutor moved for dismissal of Buchanan’s claims under Trial Rule 12(B)(6), relying on an assertion of immunity. A trial court granted both motions, and Buchanan appealed in Bradley K. Buchanan, et al. v. State of Indiana, et al.,18A-PL-1758.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the entry of judgment on the pleadings, rejecting Buchanan’s assertion that trial court erred regarding his claims against the IDOI.

“Buchanan argues on appeal that the trial court erred with respect to his claim against IDOI because his contract with IDOI did not give IDOI the right to cooperate with police in criminal investigations relating to the surrender of his license,” Judge Edward Najam wrote. “Buchanan’s argument is not only incorrect, we cannot see how in good faith he even could have arrived at that position.”

The COA therefore rejected Buchanan’s baldly stated distinction of the language in the settlement agreement with IDOI that “[t]o ‘cooperate’ is not to ‘foment’ or be a driving force of the activity in question.”

“His complaint against IDOI attempts to fault IDOI for having done what IDOI expressly reserved in the contract the right to do,” the court wrote.

The panel likewise found fault with Buchanan’s assertions that the trial court erred regarding the prosecutor, finding the prosecutor was acting within the scope of his employment pursuant to I.C. Section 34-13-3-3(17).

Additionally, the appellate court found that the Indiana Tort Claims Act “contains an unequivocal affirmative statement that clearly evinces the legislature’s intention not to subject the State or local government to suit by persons, such as Buchanan, under the supervision of a governmental entity while on probation or assigned to a community corrections program.”

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