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Friday, June 23, 2006

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court posts 6 cases decided earlier this week

Just posted on the Supreme Court website are six decisions, with dates from Wednesday and Thurday:

In Claudette Cain v. Roger Griffin, a 12-page opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:

Claudette Cain sued Roger and Lucy Griffin’s insurance company after a dispute arose over payments due Cain for injuries she suffered when she was injured in a fall at the Griffins’ restaurant. Cain contends she is a “third-party beneficiary” of the Griffins’ insurance policy and that she is entitled to maintain a claim for “bad faith” against the insurance company in addition to her claim for benefits under the policy. Applicable contract law permits Cain’s third-party beneficiary claim to go forward but she has no bad-faith claim against the insurance company under applicable tort law. * * *

We hold that Cain, as a third-party beneficiary to the medical payments coverage of the insurance contract between Auto-Owners and the Griffins may sue Auto-Owners directly to en-force the contract. However, because Auto-Owners does not owe to Cain a duty of good-faith dealing, Cain may not proceed on a tort claim against Auto-Owners for failure to deal in good faith.

In K.S. v. State of Indiana, an 8-page opinion, Chief Justice Shepard begins:
Like the rest of the nation’s courts, Indiana trial courts possess two kinds of “jurisdiction.” Subject matter jurisdiction is the power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which any particular proceeding belongs. Personal jurisdiction requires that appropriate process be effected over the parties.

Where these two exist, a court’s decision may be set aside for legal error only through direct appeal and not through collateral attack. Other phrases recently common to Indiana practice, like “jurisdiction over a particular case,” confuse actual jurisdiction with legal error, and we will be better off ceasing such characterizations.

In Sue Kozlowski v. Dordija Dordieski, et al, a 4-page opinion, Chief Justice Shepard writes:
A remonstrator to a real estate development sought judicial relief. She prevailed in the Court of Appeals, which remanded for further proceedings. She then sought injunctive relief in a different court, which granted summary judgment against her on grounds that it “lacked subject matter jurisdiction.” Actually, the second court did have subject matter jurisdiction, but was right to grant judgment because the same matter was pending in the court where the first action had been heard. * * *

We hereby affirm the trial court’s order granting the Commission summary judgment and direct any further proceedings involving substantially similar parties, subject matter, and remedies sought to occur in Lake Superior Court Room Five.

In Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. v. Chad and Don Reynolds, a 12-page opinion, Justice Boehm states the holding of the case:
We hold that tort liability of a tenant who leaves a dangerous item on the leased premises at the expiration of a lease is not extinguished by reason of the expiration of the lease. We also hold that a provision in a lease to a successor tenant that the item is acquired “as is” does not of itself bar a tort claim asserted by a non-contracting party.
In Robert Cavens, M.C. v. Tim Zaberdac, a 12-page opinion, Justice Dickson begins:
The primary appellate issue in this medical malpractice case is whether the trial court erred by prohibiting the physician from asserting the patient's conduct prior to the alleged mal-practice as a contributory negligence defense. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
In John Cantrell v. Sonya A. Morris, a 23-page opinion, Justice Boehm writes:
We respond to a question certified from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana as follows: 1) we do not resolve whether Article I, Section 9 of the Indiana Constitution imposes any restrictions on government officials in dealing with political activity or affiliation of public employees; 2) to the extent that tort doctrines give a civil damage remedy to a public employee terminated for political activity or affiliation in violation of Article I, Section 9 of the Indiana Constitution, any such wrongful discharge claim is governed by the Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA); and 3) the Indiana Constitution does not of itself give rise to any such claim, and does not prevent the ITCA from applying to such a claim. * * *

In summary, we expressly decline to address whether termination of a public employee may give rise to a violation of the Indiana Constitution. If a violation of Section 9 can supply the invasion of a right necessary for a wrongful discharge claim, the civil damages remedy against the government for a wrongful discharge is limited by the ITCA, and the individual official is entitled to immunity and indemnity to the extent provided by the ITCA.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 23, 2006 01:04 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions