Indianapolis dog breeder prevails against Georgia supplier’s appeal

An Indianapolis dog breeder held his grip on a summary judgment ruling in his favor after an out-of-state dog breeding business he sued failed to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that its motion for relief was wrongly denied.

Gary Lane, an Indianapolis dog breeder, entered into an informal verbal business arrangement with Georgia-based dog breeding business Sanders Kennels Inc. in 2013. Under their agreement, Lane would purchase Presa Canarios and breed them, selling any dogs received from Sanders Kennels under its name and any puppies under Lane’s name.

In return, Sanders Kennels agreed to provide lifetime support for the Presa Canarios they provided to Lane and their offspring, as well as any referrals to Lane of potential Indiana customers.

But things soured between Lane and Sanders Kennels in the fall of 2016 when Lane sued for breach of contract, fraud, theft and conversion. He alleged that between November 2014 and March 2016, the dogs Lane purchased, agreed to purchase, or received from Sanders Kennels were all unsuitable for professional breeding. The dogs, Lane claimed, were unsuitable due to health problems, undocumented ancestry, overbreeding, or some combination of those problems.

Sanders Kennels unsuccessfully moved to dismiss on the basis that the Marion Superior Court lacked personal jurisdiction over it. It also filed a counterclaim for defamation based on social media posts created by Lane that were critical of the dog breeding business.

Counsel for Sanders Kennels eventually withdrew, and the trial court ultimately entered summary judgment in favor of Lane, awarding damages. The trial court further denied Sanders Kennels’ subsequent motion for relief from judgment and to correct error, which the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in Sanders Kennels, Inc. v. Gary Lane, 20A-CC-675. 

The appellate court first declined to address Sanders Kennels’ claim that it had a meritorious claim or defense to Lane’s summary judgment motion. Turning to the issue of personal jurisdiction, it then sought to answer the question of whether Lane and Sanders Kennels’ business agreement was sufficient to subject Sanders Kennels to the jurisdiction of Indiana courts.

“We have little trouble concluding that Sanders Kennels created sufficient contacts with Indiana to establish specific jurisdiction; its contacts with Indiana are hardly ‘random, fortuitous, or attenuated[,]’ nor are we determining that it is subject to the jurisdiction of Indiana’s courts by virtue ‘of the unilateral activity of another party or a third person,’” Chief Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the appellate court.

“Sanders Kennels reached out beyond Georgia into Indiana and created what was anticipated to be a continuing relationship with Lane, with all of its expected benefits and obligations. In light of Sanders Kennels’ continuing obligations to Lane, it was reasonable to expect that it might be haled into an Indiana court at some point,” the appellate court wrote, concluding that Sanders Kennels failed to establish that the trial court erred in denying its motion to dismiss.

Finally, the appellate court likewise concluded that Sanders Kennels failed to establish that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to correct error.

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