What’s Your Excuse? Business Owners Beware. Like many people, I hate excuses, and I rarely have any tolerance for people who seem to always be making excuses. In the law, people who try to make excuses for not following the rules often suffer the consequences. However, the law recognizes that we are not perfect, and in some situations will grant relief to people upon showing “excusable neglect”, i.e. a “good excuse”. However, what constitutes excusable neglect will vary by the circumstances, and is often a very high bar to clear. The Indiana Court of Appeals recently addressed that issue and the operator of an apartment complex learned the hard way that its excuse was not good enough. In Wamsley v. Tree City Village, et al., the plaintiff was injured when another tenant at the apartment complex accidentally discharged his 9mm handgun while he was cleaning it, and the bullet went through a wall and significantly injured the plaintiff. Approximately 6 weeks later, plaintiff’s attorney sent a letter to the apartment complex notifying it of his representation of the plaintiff and asking the apartment complex to put its insurance company on notice. Several months later (a personal injury plaintiff in Indiana has 2 years to file a lawsuit after the subject incident), plaintiff filed his lawsuit against the owner of the gun and the apartment complex. The apartment complex did not respond to the Complaint and a default judgment was entered against the apartment complex, which meant that the apartment complex could no longer contest liability for the damages sustained by the plaintiff. ...
After You Agree to a Judgment, That Is It. We have talked often in this blog about Indiana courts enforcing agreements that have been negotiated between parties, and not interfering with those agreements absent the agreements being illegal or there being some fraud involved in reaching that agreement. The Indiana Court of Appeals recently reaffirmed this principle, albeit in a context that is somewhat different than what business people may be accustomed. In situations where one party owes another party money, and a lawsuit has been filed to collect that money, it is not unusual for those parties to enter into an agreement whereby there will be an “agreed judgment” filed with the court, which the court then consents to and enters as a matter of record. Those agreed judgments often will involve a payment plan for the amounts that are owed. In the recent case, the parties had done just that. The agreed judgment called for the defendant to pay to the plaintiff $400.55 plus an additional $450 in attorneys’ fees. Four years after the agreed judgment was entered, and presumably because the defendant had not paid what she had agreed to pay, the plaintiff filed motions with the court seeking to garnish the defendant’s wages to satisfy the agreed judgment. At that time, the defendant then appealed the entry of the agreed judgment. Through some procedural maneuverings, and even though by this time the underlying debt had already been paid, a new trial was ordered and a judgment was entered against the plaintiff after the plaintiff did not appear for the new trial. That judgment was then...
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