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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 3 today (and 5 NFP)

For publication opinions today (3):

In Ann L. Miller and Richard A. Miller v. Glenn L. Dobbs, D.O., and Partners in Health , a 2-1, 21-page decision with three opinions, Judge Kirsch writes:

The Millers raise several issues, of which we find the following to be dispositive: whether the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the Defendants based on a finding that the Millers’ proposed complaint was not timely filed. We reverse and remand. * * *

Here, the Millers filed their proposed complaint with the Department on March 18, 2008, approximately two weeks before the statute of limitations expired; however, they did not include the mandatory filing and processing fees with their proposed complaint. The Millers later mailed these fees via first-class mail, and the Department received them on April 7, 2008 – three days after the statute of limitations expired. The Millers, however, filed a complaint in Dearborn Superior Court before the statute of limitations expired.

The Millers argue that they substantially complied with the Medical Malpractice Act because they timely mailed the proposed complaint, albeit without the mandatory fees. They contend that, in providing the proposed complaint to the Department and to the Defendants, they substantially complied with the dictate of the statutory process. The Millers further claim that the process was completed when the fees were mailed on April 4, 2008. * * *

The Defendants contend that the Millers had a specific obligation imposed by Indiana Code section 34-18-8-2 to tender the filing and processing fees with their proposed complaint, and that the Department correctly determined that the Millers’ proposed complaint was filed on April 7, 2008, the date the Department actually received the filing and processing fees. We disagree. Because the matter before us arises from a proposed complaint filed before a medical review panel, and not from a complaint filed in our trial courts, we do not believe our decision here is controlled by existing precedent from our Supreme Court or this court. The present case does not involve any trial or small claims rules, and the rationale from cases interpreting such does not equally apply to cases under the Medical Malpractice Act. * * *

We often write of our desire to determine disputes on their merits. If that be so, our jurisprudence should be brought in line with this desire. The statute of limitations exists not only to spare courts from stale claims, but also “to insure that parties are given formal and seasonable notice that a claim is being asserted against them.” [cite omitted] Where, as here, the proposed complaint was delivered or mailed by registered or certified mail to the Department within the statute of limitations, but did not contain the filing and processing fees, and the fees were paid shortly after the plaintiffs were informed of their inadvertent failure to pay the fees, such complaints should be determined on their merits. This is particularly true, when, as occurred in the present case, such minimal delay in paying the fees did not prejudice the defendant in its ability to proceed in its defense of such a claim. The Defendants received seasonable notice of the Millers’ claim against them as they were aware of the proposed complaint when it was originally sent on March 18, 2008 and, believing that the proposed complaint was timely filed, they participated in normal preparation for the submission of evidence to the Medical Review Panel. We therefore conclude that the Millers rectified their error in failing to send the fees with the proposed complaint in a prompt fashion, and their proposed complaint should have been deemed timely filed. The trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the Defendants. Reversed and remanded.

BROWN, J., concurs in result with separate opinion. [that reads in part] I concur in the result reached by Judge Kirsch that the court’s grant of summary judgment should be reversed, but I do so for different reasons. * * * [F]or purposes of the statute of limitations, a proposed complaint under the MMA is filed when it has been delivered or mailed by registered or certified mail to the commissioner.

Indeed, a plain reading of the relevant sections of the MMA demonstrate that, although paying filing and processing fees is necessary to bring an action under the MMA, it does not bear on the tolling statute under Chapter 7.

VAIDIK, J., dissents with separate opinion. [that reads in part] I respectfully dissent from both Judge Kirsch’s and Judge Brown’s interpretations of the Medical Malpractice Act. I believe that the statute is clear and that a proposed medical malpractice complaint is not considered filed until the filing and processing fees are paid. Our Supreme Court precedent also requires such a result. Because the Millers’ filing and processing fees were paid after the statute of limitation expired, I would affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Defendants.

Our Supreme Court has created several bright lines in the law. Statutes of limitation and filing fees are two of them. * * *

I get it. It is hard to punish the plaintiff for the errors of her attorney. But, although the remedy is less than perfect, the plaintiff is not without one. This is the quintessential case of bad facts that create bad law. Our Supreme Court and legislature have created a bright line with regard to statutes of limitation and payment of filing and processing fees. We have bright lines in the law for a reason: they bring certainty to the law. Because a proposed complaint is not considered filed until the filing and processing fees are paid and the Millers’ filing and processing fees were paid after the statute of limitation expired, I would affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Defendants.

In Cortney L. Schwartz v. Jodi S. Heeter, a 2-page opinion on rehearing, Judge Bailey writes:
In our original decision we stated, “Mother has failed to comply with Appellate Rule 46(A)(8),” and thus waived the question of her motions to modify support. We went on to “leave it to the trial court … to determine whether it will reconsider” its decision on those motions, which motions the court had previously denied. We now clarify our decision, and specifically the conclusion, to state that we leave whether to reconsider the motions and hear evidence on them entirely to the discretion of the trial court. Mother is not entitled to reconsideration as a matter of right. With this clarification, we affirm our original decision in all other respects.
In Michael Patrick Knott and Andrew John Knott v. State of Indiana , a 10-page opinion, Judge Kirsch writes:
The State of Indiana filed a complaint, in eminent domain proceedings, to appropriate a parcel of land owned by Michael Patrick Knott and Andrew John Knott (together, “the Knotts”) for the purpose of constructing a portion of Interstate 69 (“I-69”) through Greene County, Indiana. The Knotts filed objections to the complaint, and after striking the Knotts’ objections, the trial court issued an “Order of Appropriation and Appointment of Appraisers” (“Order of Appropriation”). The Knotts raise the following issue on appeal, which we restate as whether the Order of Appropriation is capricious, fraudulent, or illegal because it fails to comply with federal environmental laws and regulations. We affirm. * * *

While the Knotts object to the acquisition of their property on the grounds that the State failed to comply with NEPA, CAA, and the Transportation Act, Indiana’s eminent domain laws do not require the State to comply with these federal statutes prior to appropriating private property for a public purpose. * * *

In the instant case, the federal statutes upon which the Knotts’ objections depend (NEPA, CAA and Section 4(f) of the Transportation Act) do not concern the acquisition of property, but instead are related to collateral issues concerning the I-69 Project. The I-69 Project is not under review in this eminent domain action. While we recognize that these federal statutes provide important environmental protections and may require the State or INDOT to take certain steps prior to the commencement of construction of the I-69 Project, we hold that the federal statutes at issue have no bearing on the condemnation proceeding itself. The trial court did not err in striking the Knotts’ objections or in entering the Order of Appropriation. While we affirm the State’s authority to take the Knotts’ property, we regret the hardship that this condemnation may cause the Knotts, notwithstanding the payment of just compensation.

NFP civil opinions today (1):

In Re the Adoption of C.R.R. and S.A.R.; W.E.R. v. D.M.T. (NFP)

NFP criminal opinions today (4):

Carl S. Piatt v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Delon Churchill v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Parrin J. Garner v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Clay R. Firestone v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 13, 2012 10:38 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions