Justices grant transfer in stalking, duty of care cases

Indiana Supreme Court justices declined to hear oral arguments in 13 cases last week but agreed to hear two cases involving duty of care and stalking.

Justices first accepted the case of Paul Michael Wilkes v. Celadon Group, Inc., et al., 19S-CT-564, in which the Indiana Court of Appeals partially reversed. The Court of Appeals concluded in April that Celadon Trucking Services did not demonstrate it owed no duty of care to Paul Wilkes after he was seriously injured following a semi-truck accident.

Wilkes, who had been driving a semi-trailer loaded by a Celadon employee, was nearly crushed when he opened the trailer and its contents poured out onto his head.

The COA found that Celadon failed to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to the remaining elements of breach of duty or proximate cause, and that the company did not show it was compliant with the industry’s standard of care to block and brace cargo. However, the court let stand judgment for Cummins Inc., which owned the cargo, on the basis that, because Cummins did not have a relationship with Wilkes or any control over the instrumentality that allegedly caused him harm, it did not owe him a duty of care.

The case was remanded to the Marion Superior Court.

Justices also granted transfer to Rodney W. Falls v. State of Indiana,19S-CR-557, affirming last week Rodney Falls’ conviction of Level 6 felony stalking after he followed a college student for more than two hours on U.S. Highway 30 from Valparaiso to Warsaw.

The Supreme Court held that Falls’ acts fell within the statutory definition of “continuing harassment,” reaffirming that a charge of stalking may be supported by conduct that is purely continuous in nature.

Cases denied by the high court included Darnell Cleveland v. State of Indiana18A-CR-2298, to which Justice Geoffrey Slaughter would have granted transfer. In that case, a divided COA panel couldn’t agree on when or if Darnell Cleveland’s gun could be returned to him after it was confiscated through a warrantless search that led to his drug- and firearm-related convictions.

The majority of justices similarly declined to hear the case of Lauren Nicole Thomas v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-2533, though Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Christopher Goff would have granted transfer. The COA there affirmed Lauren Thomas’ resisting law enforcement convictions, rejecting her arguments that the Marion Superior Court erred in denying her motion for mistrial after admitting testimony that potentially prejudiced the jury, and that there was insufficient evidence to support her Level 6 felony conviction.

A full list of transfer decisions for the week ending Oct. 11 can be found here. 

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets in {{ count_down }} days.