Justices set to hear several oral arguments next week

Indiana Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments next week in several cases including a slip-and-fall dispute, a mayor’s misuse use of bond funds, and a home detainee’s escape.

Justices will first hear oral arguments in the case of David and Tammy Branscomb v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, et al., 20S-CQ-00515 at 9 a.m. Nov. 19. David and Tammy Branscomb filed a complaint in the Huntington Circuit Court alleging David was injured when he tripped and fell over a wooden pallet in a local Walmart store. David sued the store and its manager in state court, but the defendants removed the case to federal court based on diversity of citizenship. They alleged that the Branscombs have no cause of action against the manager and the doctrine of fraudulent joinder therefore applies and permits the federal court to dismiss the manager.

As a result, the Branscombs filed a motion asking the federal court to remand the case to the Huntington Circuit Court. The high court then accepted a certified question on the issue of negligence posed by Northern District Judge Holly Brady “May a plaintiff bring a claim in negligence against a store manager, not directly involved in the plaintiff’s accident, based on a delegation of the premises owner’s duties toward invitees, Indiana agency law, or any other legal principle? If so, what is the scope of that duty?”

Then at 10 a.m. the high court will hear City of Marion v. London Witte Group, et al., 20S-MI-00567. In 2016, the City of Marion filed a complaint in Grant Superior Court against parties involved in a stalled redevelopment project partially funded by a municipal bond. Discovery uncovered allegations of misuse of bond funds by the mayor who left office the previous year. In 2017, the City amended its complaint to add London Witte Group, LLC, an accounting and financial services firm employed by the previous mayor’s administration, and the mayor’s brother as defendants.

The trial court granted summary judgment in LWG’s favor on two of the three claims against it and the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding all of the claims against LWG time-barred.

Finally, the justices will hear argument at 11 a.m. in the case of Montel Giden v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-02891. Giden was convicted of two counts of Level 6 felony escape and sentenced after allegedly leaving his home in violation of a home detention order. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding the escape statute, Indiana Code section 35-44.1-3-4, does not violate the Proportionality Clause of the Indiana Constitution and there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction.

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