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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 5 opinion(s) today (and 8 NFP memorandum decisions)

For publication opinions today (5):

In Julie M. Fetters v. Jay M. Fetters, a 12-page opinion, Judge Barnes writes:

Julie Fetters appeals the trial court’s division of property in her divorce from Jay Fetters, following its decision to enforce a premarital agreement into which the parties entered. We reverse and remand.

The restated issue before us is whether the premarital agreement is unconscionable. * * *

Here, the facts are largely undisputed. Indeed, in his brief Jay expressly agrees with Julie’s statement of the facts in her brief, with one exception. Namely, it is undisputed here that Jay commenced an illicit sexual relationship with Julie when she was fourteen years old and he was twice her age. When Julie became pregnant when she was fifteen, Jay found himself under police investigation for his conduct. In a successful attempt to evade prosecution, Jay proposed marriage to Julie, and she accepted. However, he also asked Julie to sign a premarital agreement disavowing any claim to any of his property, no matter how long they stayed married. Julie, being just sixteen years old, had no property of her own at the time and would accumulate very little during the marriage. She also dropped out of school upon marrying Jay and having their first child and has not since obtained her GED. Julie did not obtain independent legal advice regarding the premarital agreement, and she had difficulty understanding it in part because of her own poor reading skills. The only matter of dispute between the parties is whether Jay’s attorney read the document to Julie as opposed to a legal secretary. * * *

We have not discovered any case remotely similar to this one, either in Indiana or elsewhere. We readily conclude that this premarital agreement is unconscionable as a matter of law. Although it does not appear Jay is highly educated, there still was a gross disparity in life experience between him and Julie. Indeed, Jay apparently violated criminal laws intended to protect minors by carrying out his illicit sexual relationship with Julie. See I.C. § 35-42-4-9 (1995) (defining crime of sexual misconduct with a minor but providing as defense that child is married). And, he personally benefitted greatly by marrying Julie and avoiding prosecution, with no comparable benefit to Julie. Rather, Julie dropped out of school and did not further her education, while either caring for the couple’s children or working at low-wage jobs. Also, the property division portion of the agreement was entirely one-sided in Jay’s favor, as he was the only party bringing any assets into the marriage.

Furthermore, Indiana law has long held that contracts entered into by a minor are voidable at the option of the minor while he or she remains a minor, or within a reasonable time after reaching majority. * * *

In sum, after considering all of the circumstances surrounding the premarital agreement’s execution and its one-sided nature in favor of the dominant party, Jay, we conclude that the agreement was unconscionable at the time of its execution. * * *

Having found the premarital agreement unconscionable, we must also address the trial court’s alternate conclusion that Julie is “barred by laches and estoppel” from challenging the agreement because she failed to disavow the agreement for nearly fourteen years after she turned eighteen. * * *

The trial court erred in concluding that the parties’ premarital agreement is not unconscionable and that Julie is time-barred from challenging it. We conclude that the agreement is unconscionable, Julie is not barred from challenging it, and it therefore is void. We reverse the trial court’s division of property in the parties’ dissolution and remand for the trial court to divide the marital property in a manner consistent with the general laws governing such division.

In Skyline Roofing & Sheet Metal Company, Inc. v. Ziolkowski Construction, Inc. and United Union Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Local #26, a 16-page opinion, Judge Riley writes:
Skyline raises two issues on appeal, which we consolidate and restate as the following single issue: Whether the trial court properly concluded that Skyline failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact that Ziolkowski violated Indiana’s Antitrust Act by unlawfully restraining open and free competition in bidding for a public project to build a new middle school. * * *

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that Skyline established a genuine issue of material fact that Ziolkowski violated Indiana’s Antitrust Act by unlawfully restraining open and free competition in bidding for a public project to build a new middle school. Reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

In Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles v. Jennifer M. Gurtner, a 14-page opinion, Judge Mathias writes:
The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (“BMV”) appeals the order of the Marshall Superior Court granting a petition for judicial review filed by Jennifer M. Gurtner (“Gurtner”) after her license was suspended for failure to provide proof of financial responsibility following an automobile accident. On appeal, the BMV claims that the trial court was without authority to grant the petition because the controlling statute provides the trial court with no discretion to overturn the suspension. Concluding that Gurtner did not adequately avail herself of the available statutory remedies, we reverse. * * *

This case sets forth facts that were not really contemplated by the licensure statutes in effect at the time. Gurtner and the trial judge involved did the best they could do under unusual circumstances. That said, Gurtner failed to take advantage of the existing statutory remedies that would have provided her with an opportunity to explain why her failure to maintain financial responsibility was not her fault. Accordingly, we cannot say that the suspension of her license was accomplished without adequate due process. Reversed.

In In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of R.P. v. Optional Behavior MHS , Judge Riley concludes:
Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the trial court properly ordered R.P.’s involuntary commitment because he presented a danger to others pursuant to I.C. § 12-26-6-1. Affirmed.
In Thomas L. Arflack v. Town of Chandler, Indiana; Chandler Town Council; and Town of Chandler Advisory Plan Commission, a 15-page opinion, Judge Riley writes:
Appellant-Plaintiff, Thomas L. Arflack (Arflack), appeals the trial court’s grant of Appellees-Defendants’, Town of Chandler, Chandler Town Council, and Town of Chandler Advisory Plan Commission (collectively, Chandler), motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6). We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Arflack raises two issues on appeal, which we consolidate and restate as the following single issue: Whether the trial court erred in dismissing Arflack’s complaint for failing to state a claim pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6).

In its brief, Chandler raises one issue, which we restate as: Whether the trial court’s order to dismiss was a final, appealable judgment. * * *

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the trial court’s order to dismiss was a final, appealable order and the trial court erred by granting Chandler’s motion to dismiss based on a failure to state a claim. * * *

Baker J. concurs
Vaidik, C.J. concurs in result with separate opinion [which begins, at p. 14] The majority concludes that the trial court’s dismissal order was a final, appealable order and the court erred by granting Chandler’s motion to dismiss based on a failure to state a claim. I agree with this result; however, I write separately because I believe the majority improperly resolves the ultimate issue of whether Arflack could only be removed for cause and was entitled to written notice of his removal from the Town Council.

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(B)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint, not the facts that support it.

NFP civil decisions today (3):

Tonya Windell v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC (mem. dec.)

Beth Marquardt v. Rick L. Barnes and State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of K.E., Child and J.E. (Father) and S.S. (Mother) v. Indiana Department of Child Services (mem. dec.)

NFP criminal decisions today (5):

Larry Lefler v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Stephen Schauf v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Marco Webster v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

D'Andre Driver v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Brandy L. Lawson v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 26, 2015 11:26 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions