Indiana Supreme Court grants transfer to wage dispute case, 2 other cases

A dispute between a dentist and her former employer, which split the Court of Appeals over the award of damages, is now headed for the Indiana Supreme Court.

The case, Family Dental Care P.C. v. Christine Mousa, 22S-PL-141, is among three the Supreme Court accepted for transfer for the week ending May 6.

A total of 31 petitions for transfer were considered for that week, with 28 petitions denied.

Also, the justices split over granting transfer to an expungement case that the Supreme Court had heard before. Transfer was denied in Brian Allen v. State of Indiana, 21A-XP-368, but Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Steven David voted to grant the petition. Neither wrote separately explaining their votes.

The other cases that were granted transfer were an eminent domain dispute in 624 Broadway LLC v. Gary Housing Authority, 22S-CT-140, and a question about a criminal defendant’s right to allocution in Cole Godfrey Strack v. State of Indiana, 22S-CR-137. The Supreme Court has already heard oral arguments in Strack and issued its opinion at the same time it granted transfer.

In the Family Dental Care case, the majority of the Court of Appeals of Indiana panel reversed the award of liquidated damages of $45,995.24 provided under Indiana Code § 22-2-5-2, the Wage Payment Statute. The panel found liquidated damages were not available to appellee-plaintiff Christine Mousa because she did not first pursue an administrative remedy by filing a claim with the Indiana Department of Labor before filing her lawsuit in Lake Superior Court.

However, the dissent argued the DOL process was unclear.

The agency’s online wage claim form states it cannot accept claims less than $30 or more than $6,000. Consequently, because Mousa asserted she was owed $22,997.62 in unpaid wages, the DOL would not have accepted her claim or even processed it. Therefore, the dissent asserted, denying Mousa relief was unjust when no remedy other than a lawsuit was available to her.

After an initial Supreme Court ruling, the Allen case returned to the Dearborn Superior Court. The crime involved burglarizing the home of an elderly couple and beating the man with a lead pipe.

Judge James Humphrey noted Allen did not directly participate in the attack on the elderly man, but he saw the victim “bleeding like a stuck pig” and “on his hands and knees” in a “pile of blood.” As a result, the trial court ruled “some crimes are too awful to warrant expungement, and this is one of those crimes.”

The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Allen’s petition for expungement. The panel concluded the lower court considered the nature and circumstances of Allen’s crime and his character, including his rehabilitation efforts since his conviction.

The list of transfer petitions can be found here.

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