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Defendant appealed his convictions for two counts of murder for which the trial court imposed consecutive life without parole sentences. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to sustain the murder convictions; (2) the trial court properly found that the State proved the I.C. 35-50-2-9(b)(11) aggravator beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting into evidence Defendant’s recorded phone calls made to a special agent, as the phone calls were not protected by Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel; and (4) Indiana’s life without parole statutory sentencing scheme is constitutional. View "Leonard v. State" on Justia Law

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The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications brought a judicial disciplinary action against Tommy D. Phillips II, Judge of the Dunkirk City Court (Respondent), after Respondent pleaded guilty to battery against a public safety official. Respondent and the Commission agreed that, by being convicted for battery against a public safety official, Respondent violated Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.1 and 1.2. The parties agreed that the appropriate sanction was a public reprimand on the condition that Respondent tender his resignation as the Dunkirk City Court judge and that he shall not be eligible for future judicial service. The Supreme Court imposed the sanction of a public reprimand and assessed the costs of this proceeding against Respondent. View "In re Honorable Tommy D. Phillips II" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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TCI Architects (TCI) entered into an agreement with Gander Mountain to serve as the general contractor on a construction project. TCI subcontracted with Craft Mechanical, which subcontracted with B.A. Romines Sheet Metal (Romines) to perform heating and ventilation work for the project. Michael Ryan, an employee of Romines, sustained serious bodily injuries while working at the Gander Mountain construction site. Ryan filed a complaint for damages for the injuries sustained, naming TCI and Craft as defendants. The trial court granted summary judgment for TCI. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the contract between TCI and Gander Mountain did not create a duty. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thereby vacating the court of appeals’ opinion, and reversed, holding that TCI affirmatively demonstrated an intent to assume a non-delegable duty of care toward Ryan by entering into a contract containing language that required TCI to assume responsibility for implementing and monitoring safety precautions and programs for all individuals working on the site and by agreeing to designate a safety representative to supervise the implementing and monitoring. Remanded. View "Ryan v. TCI Architects/Engineers/Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Police officer Dwayne Runnels suffered serious injuries after he was shot by Demetrious Martin. Martin, a convicted felon who could not legally purchase or possess a firearm, received the firearm by Tarus Blackburn, who made a “straw purchase” for the firearm from KS&E Sports. Runnels filed a complaint against KS&E; Blackburn; and Edward Ellis, a KS&E officer, director, and shareholder. KS&E and Ellis moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Ind. Code 34-12-3-3(2) granted them immunity. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Runnel’s negligence, piercing-the-corporate-veil, and civil-conspiracy claims, which demand only money damages, must be dismissed because section 34-12-3-3(2) functions as a limited immunity statute that insulates KS&E from suits for “recovery of damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm…by a third party”; (2) the statute does not immunize KS&E from Runnel’s public-nuisance claim seeking equitable relief; and (3) the statute is not preempted by federal law and does not violate either the state or federal Constitution. View "KS&E Sports v. Runnels" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a proposed malpractice complaint alleging that Defendant’s medical and surgical treatment of Plaintiff’s wife failed to meet the appropriate standard of care, resulting in her death. In addition to the complaint, Plaintiff submitted to the Medical Review Panel (MRP) his wife’s medical records and a narrative statement. The MRP found that Defendant had met the applicable standard of care. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a complaint in court. Plaintiff named as an expert a hematologist who was expected to testify that Defendant had failed to prescribe the appropriate dosage of anticoagulation medication. Defendant moved to strike the hematologist’s opinion on grounds that Plaintiff’s submission to the MRP did not allege malpractice relating to the anticoagulation medication and so Plaintiff could not pursue the claim in court. The trial court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that Plaintiff was allowed to raise theories of alleged malpractice during litigation following the MRP process. The Supreme Court granted transfer and adopted and incorporated by reference the Court of Appeals opinion, holding that the Court of Appeals’ opinion was consistent with Miller v. Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Inc. View "McKeen v. Turner" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to Class D felony theft. As part of his plea agreement with the State, Defendant agreed that he would be “precluded from asking for misdemeanor treatment.” At that time, trial courts could convert sentences only at the time of sentencing. In 2012, however, the General Assembly amended Ind. Code 35-50-2-7 by allowing sentences to be converted after they had been entered. In 2015, Defendant filed a petition seeking to convert his Class D felony to a Class A misdemeanor under section 35-50-2-7(d). The trial court granted the petition, vacated Defendant’s felony, and re-entered the conviction as a Class A misdemeanor. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the legislative amendment did not alter the unambiguous terms of Defendant’s plea agreement, and therefore, the trial court exceeded its authority when it granted Defendant’s petition, circumventing the agreement’s terms. View "State v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The State brought this civil action against Consumer Attorney Services, P.A., The McCann Law Group, LLP, and Brenda McCann (collectively, Defendants), alleging that Defendants’ conduct violated four Indiana consumer protection statutes: the Credit Services Organizations Act (CSOA), the Mortgage Rescue Protection Fraud Act (MRPFA), the Home Loan Practices Act (HLPA), and the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act (DCSA). Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that they were statutorily exempted from liability. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that neither the CSOA, the MRPFA, the HLPA, nor the DCSA provides an exemption for law firms. View "Consumer Attorney Services, P.A. v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law

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The State charged Defendant with dealing in marijuana and maintaining a common nuisance. At some point, the State informed Defendant that it had a video recording of a controlled buy between him and a confidential informant (CI). The State offered Defendant’s public defender the opportunity to review the recording but would not allow Defendant himself to see the video. After Defendant unsuccessfully requested a copy of the recording, his counsel filed a motion to compel, arguing that Defendant’s personal review of the video was fundamental to preparing a defense. In response, the State claimed that the informer’s privilege allowed withholding the identity of the CI. The trial court denied the motion to compel. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the State failed to make the threshold showing that the informer’s privilege applied in the first instance because it was unclear whether the video would actually reveal the informant’s identity; and (2) even if the State had made the threshold showing, Defendant carried his burden of proving an exception to the privilege because his review of the video was “relevant and helpful to his defense or [was] necessary for a fair trial.” View "Beville v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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CitiMortgage, Inc. obtained a judgment of foreclosure against the family homestead of Homeowners - husband and wife. Homeowners attempted to appeal without legal representation. The Court of Appeals dismissed the attempted appeal with prejudice because of defects in Homeowners’ filings. Homeowners filed a petition to transfer, which the Supreme Court initially denied. On reconsideration, the Court vacated the order denying transfer and assumed jurisdiction over this appeal. The Court then affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that, under the facts presented in this case, the trial court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of CitiMortgage. View "McCullough v. CitiMortgage, Inc." on Justia Law

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The owner of real property executed a warranty deed to three grantees, two of whom (Husband and Wife) were married. A dozen years later, in a separate case, the circuit court entered a damages judgment against Husband and the third grantee (Underwood) and in favor of Underwood’s former employer (Demming). The Demming judgment subsequently became a lien on the property. Husband subsequently denied. Thereafter, Underwood brought this action seeking to partition and sell the property and distribute the proceeds, arguing that she, Husband, and Wife owned the property as tenants in common and that she no longer wanted to own the property in common with Wife and Husband’s Estate. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Estate and Demming. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Husband’s interest in the property passed directly to Wife upon his death and not to his Estate. The Supreme Court granted transfer and reversed, holding that Indiana’s legal presumption that spouses owning real property hold their interests as tenants by the entirety is rebutted on the record in this case because the deed conveying the property specifies that the tree grantees shall take the property “all as Tenants-in-Common.” Remanded. View "Underwood v. Bunger" on Justia Law