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Monday, April 25, 2016

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decided one late Friday, posted today

In Adam Gaff v. Indiana-Purdue University of Fort Wayne, a 5-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Dickson writes:

The plaintiff, Adam Gaff, appeals from the grant of summary judgment sought by his former employer, defendant Indiana-Purdue University of Fort Wayne (IPFW), in this employment termination discrimination case. We grant transfer to clarify the application of Indiana summary judgment jurisprudence to such cases. [ILB emphasis]

As consolidated by the Court of Appeals, the plaintiff's appeal presents claims alleging that the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment as to the plaintiff's federal and state constitutional claims and as to the plaintiff's retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). Gaff v. Indiana-Purdue Univ. of Fort Wayne, 45 N.E.3d 458, 460 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015). With respect to the federal and state constitutional claims, we summarily affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.

In affirming the summary judgment on the retaliation claim, however, the Court of Appeals noted language from Indiana Civil Rights Commission v. Culver Educational Foundation, wherein we stated that "the ultimate burden of persuasion that the defendant engaged in unlawful discrimination remains at all times with the plaintiff." 535 N.E.2d 112, 115 (Ind. 1989). The Court of Appeals in Gaff acknowledged that "IPFW is the party who moved for summary judgment," but nevertheless applied Culver Educational—which was not a summary judgment case—to hold that "the initial burden is still on Gaff to prove a prima facie case of retaliation." Gaff, 45 N.E.3d at 465. The Court of Appeals ventured that "Indiana's 'heightened' summary judgment standard, discussed in Hughley v. State, 15 N.E.2d 1000, 1003 (Ind. 2014), under which the moving party must negate an opponent's claim, does not apply to a Title VII claim." Gaff, 45 N.E.3d at 465 n.9. We disagree. * * *

As we recently emphasized in Hughley, "[e]ven though Indiana Trial Rule 56 is nearly identical to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, we have long recognized that Indiana's summary judgment procedure . . . diverges from federal summary judgment practice. In particular, while federal practice permits the moving party to merely show that the party carrying the burden of proof lacks evidence on a necessary element, we impose a more onerous burden: to affirmatively negate an opponent's claim." * * *

We affirm the grant of summary judgment as to the plaintiff's retaliation claim under Ti-tle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and we summarily affirm the Court of Appeals as to all other issues. This cause is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 25, 2016 11:27 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions