Justices to hear arguments in tax jurisdiction case but deny another argument to IBM litigation

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected.

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case involving the dismissal of assessment challenges filed by multiple homeowners associations. However, the court has declined to hear arguments again in a dispute between the state and IBM Corp. over a broken contract.

The court also revoked its grant of transfer to a dispute between two technology companies.

The justices last week granted transfer to Muir Woods Section One Assn., Inc., et al. v. Marion County Assessor, 21S-TA-158, but denied transfer to State of Indiana v. International Business Machines Corporation, 20A-PL-925.

In Muir Woods, Muir Woods Section One Association Inc., Muir Woods Inc., Spruce Knoll Homeowners Association Inc., and Oakmont Homeowners Association Inc. challenged the Indiana Board of Tax Review’s final determination dismissing their appeal that challenged the assessments of their common area land for the 2001 through 2003 tax years. The Indiana Tax Court partially reversed in a September 2020 decision.

The case will now go to the Indiana Supreme Court for arguments at 9 a.m. June 24.

The most recent iteration of the long-litigated IBM case is the fourth appeal in the litigation stemming from a soured contract to modernize Indiana’s welfare system. Breach of contract lawsuits ensued, and in 2017 the state was awarded $128 million in total damages, which was offset by the $49.8 million in damages due IBM. Following several appeals and rulings, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s award of post-judgment interest in IBM v. State, 138 N.E. 3d 255, 259 (Ind. 2019).

Back at the trial court, the state argued it was owed more than $4 million in additional post-judgment interest, claiming the interest it is due should be based on its gross award of $128 million at a rate of 8% from August 4, 2017. The interest due to IBM, the state continued, should be based on its award of $49.8 million at a rate of 6% from March 14, 2018.

But the trial court denied the state’s verified motion to enter final judgment on remand, and the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed.

“The gist of the State’s appeal is that the Supreme Court, in actuality, reversed the trial court on this issue and remanded,” Judge Robert Altice wrote for the court. “This can’t be so. A plain reading of the Supreme Court’s opinion, and the trial court’s order which was affirmed, indicates that no post-judgment interest was due IBM because its damage award was zeroed out by the setoff.”

Justice Mark Massa did not participate in the transfer decision in IBM.

The court denied transfer to a total of 23 cases for the week ending April 23. That includes vacating transfer after hearing arguments in the case of ShermansTravel Media, LLC v. Gen3Ventures, LLC, 21S-PL-63.

The justices had previously granted transfer to ShermansTravel in February  and heard arguments in the tech company dispute on April 22. But the court vacated its previous transfer order and instead issued a denial in its transfer actions for the week ending April 23.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Steven David would not have vacated the grant of transfer.

Of the cases denied transfer, the court was unanimous except for Meineke Car CareCenter #1858 v. Anthony Alexander, 19A-CT-2963. The court heard arguments on petition to transfer that case on April 22, and Rush voted to grant transfer.

Finally, the high court granted transfer last week in State of Indiana v. Jarrel Luke Ellis, 21S-CR-159, handing down an opinion on April 23. The justices overturned the suppression of drug evidence found during a community corrections search of Jarrel Ellis’ home, finding Ellis’ had waived his right against searches and seizures lacking reasonable suspicion.

The full list of transfer decisions for the week ending April 23 is available online.

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