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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 4 opinion(s) today (and 13 NFP memorandum decision(s))

For publication opinions today (4):

In Scott Alan Stibbins, individually and as Personal Rep. of the Estate of Warren E. Stibbins, and Trustee of the Warren E. Stibbins Revocable Trust, et al. v. Carol (Stibbins) Pagano Foster, et al., a 14-page opinion, Judge Baker writes:

Warren Stibbins had seven children and a complicated estate plan. In the years before his death, Warren became frustrated with the inability of his daughter, Carol, to manage her finances. He purchased an annuity for her that would have provided a steady source of income for the rest of her life, and then removed her as a beneficiary from his estate plan and from her deceased mother’s trust. After Warren’s death, Carol and her children filed an action contesting the probate of Warren’s will. They were unsuccessful after years of litigation and a five-day jury trial. After they lost the will contest, they sought to be reimbursed for their attorney fees pursuant to Indiana Code section 29-1-10-14. Although the trial court found that two of their three claims were litigated without good faith and just cause, it found that their third claim met that test. As a result, the trial court ordered that the estate pay all of Carol’s attorney fees and costs in an amount exceeding $170,000.

The estate now appeals, arguing, among other things, that Carol and her children do not have standing to seek attorney fees because they are not devisees under the relevant statute. We agree, and reverse the judgment of the trial court awarding attorney fees to Carol and her children.

In Techna-Fit, Inc. and Stuart Trotter v. Fluid Transfer Products, Inc., a 36-page opinion, Judge Najam writes:
Techna-Fit, Inc. filed a complaint against Fluid Transfer Products, Inc. (“FTP”) alleging, among other claims, that FTP engaged in unfair competition with Techna-Fit in violation of a provision of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125, and seeking injunctive relief. FTP filed a counterclaim against Techna-Fit alleging breach of contract and a third-party claim against Stuart Trotter alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, defamation, and deception. Techna-Fit and FTP each filed motions for partial summary judgment, which the trial court denied. Following a bench trial with the assistance of an advisory jury, the trial court entered judgment in favor of FTP on Techna-Fit’s claims, its counter-claim against Techna-Fit for breach of contract, and its third-party claims against Trotter for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court awarded damages to FTP as follows: $662,901.86 for Techna-Fit and Trotter’s breach of contract; $125,000 for Trotter’s breach of fiduciary duty; and punitive damages for Trotter’s breach of fiduciary duty in the amount of $1,500,000. FTP requested attorney’s fees, which the trial court awarded following a hearing. Techna-Fit filed a motion to correct error, which the trial court denied. * * *

Techna-Fit has not demonstrated that it was entitled to summary judgment on its Lanham Act claim. The trial court’s exclusion of certain evidence at trial was not reversible error. The trial court’s refusal to proffer a proposed instruction to the advisory jury was not reversible error. We will not reweigh the evidence or reassess the credibility of witnesses with respect to the breach of contract claims. The trial court erred when it awarded FTP $1,500,000 in punitive damages. We reverse that award and order Trotter to pay $375,000 in punitive damages for his breach of fiduciary duty. And the trial court erred when it awarded FTP attorney’s fees.

In Travis Allen v. State of Indiana, a 2-1, 13-page opinion, Judge Najam writes:
Travis Allen appeals his convictions for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, as a Class A misdemeanor; driving with a suspended license, a Class A misdemeanor; and driving without a license, as a Class C felony; following a bench trial. Allen presents two issues for our review:
1. Whether the trial court erred when it denied his motion for discharge pursuant to Criminal Rule 4(C).
2. Whether the delay in bringing him to trial violated his right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by the United States and Indiana Constitutions.

Kirsch, J., concurs.
Barnes, J., dissents with separate opinion. [which begins, at p.11] I respectfully dissent. While I believe that trial judges, clerks, prosecutors, and other court personnel should not be obligated to do a defendant’s work on his or her behalf, I cannot agree with the majority that the first time the State and the trial court received actual notice of Allen’s incarceration was April 23, 2014. * * *

Allen informed the trial court of his incarceration in person on the record at the October 2012 pretrial conference. Even if this actual notice of his incarceration was not sufficient to preserve Allen’s Rule 4(C) rights, I believe that Allen’s September 5, 2013 pro se petition was. If these attempts at notification were not sufficient, what else was Allen to do?

I know this case arose in Marion County, where the criminal case overload is, at times, chaotic; however, Allen did what he could to protect his rights. Although I am not a fan of discharges pursuant to Criminal Rule 4(C), I would recalculate the time in a manner that reflects the attempt(s) by Allen to notify the trial court of his whereabouts. If that results in discharge, so be it.

In Tonya Herron v. State of Indiana, a 10-page opinion, Judge Baker writes:
Tonya Herron appeals the certified interlocutory order of the trial court denying her motion to suppress evidence. She argues that the warrant authorizing a blood draw lacked probable cause where the officer’s probable cause affidavit left several material sections blank. Finding a lack of probable cause to issue the warrant, we reverse. * * *

In sum, the good faith exception does not apply to this error. The error was made first by the officer and so the public policy of incentivizing better police behavior still applies. Affirming a form affidavit that does not, in its individualized portions, include a crime would come much too close to the obliteration of the exclusionary rule that our Supreme Court has cautioned against.

NFP civil decisions today (4):

In the Matter of the Term. of the Parent-Child Relationship of E.B. (minor child), and, R.K. (Mother) v. Ind. Dept. of Child Services (mem. dec.)

Amanda B. Dobbs v. Bradley W. Dobbs (mem. dec.)

Sylvia M. Rodriquez v. John R. Wyse (mem. dec.)

Ulrich Tibaut Houzanme v. Sally Jo Houzanme (mem. dec.)

NFP criminal decisions today (9):

William B. Scroggs v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

M.H. v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Khalid M. Jackson-Bey v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Noah Shane Warren v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Bucky Willard Kado and Amanda Dankert v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Darney R. Karim v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Matthew Marcus II v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Alan W. Jenkins v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Brittney Massey v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 14, 2015 01:08 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions