Opinions April 8, 2021

The following Indiana Supreme Court opinion was posted after IL deadline Wednesday:
David Branscomb and Tammy Branscomb v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. and James Clark
Certified question. Answers a certified question from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana and holds that when there are no allegations that a store manager controlled the premises where alleged harm occurred, he or she cannot be held liable under Indiana law. Finds plaintiffs David and Tammy Branscomb cannot recover from store manager James Clark based on their failure to properly hire, train and supervise claim, their failure to have and/or implement proper safety policies and procedures claim, or their failure to inspect and maintain the property claim. 

Thursday opinions
Indiana Court of Appeals
State of Indiana v. Andrew M. Royer
Post conviction. Affirms the grant of Andrew M. Royer’s successive petition for post-conviction relief based on newly discovered evidence, vacating Royer’s murder conviction and ordering a new trial. Finds Royer did not receive a fair trial. Also finds the Elkhart Superior post-conviction court’s legal conclusions that the state relied on discredited evidence to secure Royer’s convictions, that the state failed to disclose material impeachment evidence in violation of its duty under Brady v. Maryland, and that new evidence calls into question the voluntariness of Royer’s confessions logically follows from its factual findings. Finally, finds that had that evidence been presented to the jury, there is a reasonable probability that the result of Royer’s trial would have been different.

Ohio Casualty Insurance Company v. State of Indiana
Civil plenary. Reverses the grant of summary judgment to the state of Indiana in the state’s action against Ohio Casualty Insurance Company to recover two employee crime insurance policies that Ohio Casualty issued to the city of Lawrenceburg. Finds the Dearborn Superior Court erred when it entered summary judgment for the state rather than for Ohio Casualty. Remands for the entry of summary judgment for Ohio Casualty.

Jennifer Romero and Azael Romero v. Jessica McVey, et al.
Miscellaneous. Reverses the denial of Jennifer and Azael Romero’s petition for grandparent visitation rights as to their granddaughter, J.I., who has been placed in the care of her maternal aunt since birth.  Finds the evidence presented at the hearing and the Tippecanoe Superior Court’s findings do not support the determination that court-ordered visitation would not be in J.I.’s best interests. Also finds the denial of the grandparents’ petition for visitation was clearly erroneous. Remands with instructions for the trial court to conduct further proceedings as necessary to determine the appropriate amount of grandparent visitation and enter a decree establishing said visitation.

Cassandra Fischer, Dalaina Hutchins, Thomas Hutchins, and Jessica Newland v. Margaret Hutchins (mem. dec.)
Estate, supervised. Affirms the order in favor of Margaret Hutchins in a dispute with siblings Cassandra Fischer, Dalaina Hutchins, Thomas Hutchins and Jessica Newland. Finds that because father Frederick Hutchins’ transfer of the farm to the children in an apparent effort to preclude Margaret from receiving the farm at any time in the future was fraudulent under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, the Steuben Cirucit Court did not err in finding and concluding as such.

James E. Roberts v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)
Criminal. Affirms James Roberts’ aggregate sentence of five years executed for his conviction in Tippecanoe Superior Court of Level 6 felony failure to return to lawful detention and his admission to being a habitual offender. Finds Roberts’ sentence is not inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and his character.

Michael Hickingbottom v. Mark A. Bates, et al. (mem. dec.)
Civil tort. Affirms the dismissal of Michael Hickingbottom’s complaint against Lake County public defender Mark Bates and the Lake County Appellate Public Defender Division for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Finds Hickingbottom’s complaint states no facts on which he could succeed in his Section 1983 suit, so the Lake Superior Court did not err in granting the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

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