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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 3 opinion(s) today (and 7 NFP memorandum decision(s))

For publication opinions today (3):

In The Estate of Gary Pfafman v. Lori Lancaster, Individually, and as Guardian of the Estate of Kole Craig, a 34-page opinion (with a concurring opinion), Judge Najam writes:

The Estate of Gary Pfafman (“Pfafman’s Estate”) appeals the trial court’s grant of a new trial following a jury verdict in favor of the Estate on a complaint filed by Lori Lancaster, Individually and as Guardian of the Estate of Kole Craig (“Craig’s Estate”). Pfafman’s Estate presents two issues for our review, one of which is dispositive, namely, whether the trial court complied with the requirements of Indiana Trial Rule 59(J) when it ordered a new trial on the grounds that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict. We reverse. * * *

In sum, despite its length,17 the trial court’s order omits any meaningful analysis of the evidence, including testimony by Craig’s Estate’s own expert witnesses, that Diehm and Farm Innovators proximately caused Craig’s injuries. While the trial court’s findings include a list of some of that evidence regarding the nonparties’ negligence, the court did not explain in its conclusions why that evidence would not support a jury’s allocation of fault to one or both of the nonparties with none to Pfafman’s Estate. We hold that the trial court’s findings and conclusions are not based on a complete analysis of the law and facts, see T.R. 59(J), and the court did not make “a clear showing that the ends of justice required” a new trial. Walker, 943 N.E.2d at 352. When a court grants a new trial without making sufficiently specific findings, the remedy on appeal is to reinstate the jury verdict. Id. at 353. Because the trial court’s findings are insufficient here, we reinstate the jury’s verdict.

Conclusion. The trial court’s findings and conclusions in granting Craig’s Estate’s motion for a new trial are insufficient under Trial Rule 59(J). The trial court did not relate the evidence of the nonparties’ negligence to the issue of comparative fault under the Act, but erroneously concluded that Pfafman’s conduct was the sole cause of Craig’s injuries. And the trial court did not address the possibility that the jury allocated 100% fault to Diehm and/or Farm Innovators despite the lack of an intervening cause. Given the evidence that there were several but-for causes of Craig’s injuries attributable to the nonparties, the jury was entitled to allocate 100% fault to one or both of the nonparties and 0% to Pfafman. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s order and reinstate the jury’s verdict in favor of Pfafman’s Estate. Reversed.

Baker, J., concurs.

Vaidik, C.J., concurs in result with separate opinion. [that begins at p. 29] The trial court erred in finding as a matter of law that Pfafman proximately caused Craig’s injuries. Therefore, I concur in the result and would reinstate the jury’s verdict. But, I respectfully disagree with the majority that a jury is allowed to find an actor proximately caused an injury, yet decline to allocate a percentage of fault to that actor.

In Elberta N. Jackson v. State of Indiana , a 13-page opinion, Judge Riley writes:
Jackson raises two issues on appeal, which we restate as follows:

(1) Whether the State presented sufficient evidence to support Jackson’s conviction for operating a vehicle with an ACE to at least 0.15 beyond a reasonable doubt; and

(2) Whether Jackson’s due process rights were violated by the imposition of a two-year administrative driver’s license suspension. * * *

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that there is sufficient evidence to support Jackson’s conviction for operating a vehicle with an ACE to at least 0.15, and we further conclude that Jackson’s due process rights were not violated.

In Jeremiah Edward Ericksen v. State of Indiana , a 12-page opinion, Judge Riley writes:
On November 11, 2015, officers conducting surveillance on Ericksen witnessed him putting a black bag, a “possible gun case type thing,” inside the trunk of a black Jaguar, which was registered to Marilyn Ericksen (Marilyn). * * *

To convict Ericksen of carrying a handgun without a license as a Level 5 felony, the State was required to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Ericksen did knowingly or intentionally carry a handgun in or upon his vehicle or person without a license in his possession after he had already been previously convicted for carrying a handgun without a license. * * *

Focusing on the “carry” element of the offense, Ericksen argues that “there is no evidence that [Ericksen] ‘carried’ the handgun.” (Appellant’s Br. p. 13). In essence, Ericksen claims that because the statute requires a person to be carrying, rather than possessing a handgun, constructive possession is not an appropriate analysis to find a defendant guilty of carrying a handgun without a license. * * *

Based on the foregoing, we hold that the State presented sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to support Ericksen’s conviction for carrying a handgun without a license; and the trial court tendered a proper jury instruction on the charge of carrying a handgun without a license.

NFP civil decisions today (3):

State of Indiana v. David Biela, Gregory Czizek, James Liverman, and Stanley Mazur (mem. dec.)

In the Matter of: L.B., C.L., B.L., G.L., M.L., and T.L. Children in Need of Services, C.B. and T.B. v. Indiana Department of Child Services (mem. dec.)

County Motors, LLC, and Thomas Kouttoulas v. Clarence Russell, Jr., and Angela Sullivan (mem. dec.)

NFP criminal decisions today (4):

K.J. v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

John Paul Garcia v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Wallace Briscoe v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Isaiah Levert Hughes v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 18, 2017 11:24 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions