« Courts - SCOTUS looks at asset-forfeiture hearings, in a review of a 7th Circuit opinion [Updated] | Main | Ind. Gov't. - Computer problems in Virginia sound somewhat familiar »

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ind. Decisions - "Indiana Supreme Court sides with Papa John's in lawsuit"

Yesterday's 3-2 opinion in the case of Thomas Williams and Sanford Kelsey v. Kelly Eugene Tharp and Papa John's U.S.A., Inc. is the subject of a good story today by Charles Wilson of the AP, that begins:

Two men who sued Papa John's USA Inc. when they were detained by police after an employee falsely accused one of them of pulling a gun have no case because the statement to police was privileged information under state law, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.
And concludes
Kelsey and Johnson sued Tharp and Papa John's for defamation, false imprisonment, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A Hamilton County judge issued a summary judgment for the defendants, but the Court of Appeals reversed her ruling.

The Supreme Court sided with the trial court, however, when Tharp and Papa John's appealed. For the justices, the key issue was the degree to which citizens' reports of suspected criminal activity are protected under state law.

Three of the justices held that there was insufficient evidence that Tharp had deliberately lied, which would have left his statement unprotected. The 22-page decision noted that Tharp had reported seeing a silver gun with a dark grip pulled out of a holster, and that one of the men had been wearing a black and silver fanny pack in a similar position.

“Whether Tharp's misperception was speculative, negligent, or even reckless, it was not so obviously mistaken to permit a reasonable inference that he lied,” Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the majority.

Two of the justices disagreed. Justice Robert Rucker noted that Tharp pleaded guilty in June 2008 to a charge of false reporting stemming from the Papa John's incident.

“This Court should not, in effect, turn a blind eye to evidence that stands at the very heart of this litigation, namely whether Tharp's statements were made without belief or grounds for belief in their truth. His admissions by way of a guilty plea certainly seem to put the matter to rest,” Rucker wrote in his dissent.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 14, 2009 02:43 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions