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Beal v. Blinn

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 7, 2014

SHANE BEAL and THE BAR PLAN MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellants-Defendants,
v.
EDWIN BLINN, JR., Appellee-Plaintiff

APPEAL FROM THE GRANT SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Thomas Newman, Jr., Special Judge. Cause No. 27D03-0705-PL-197.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: PHILIP E. KALAMAROS, Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros, LLP, St. Joseph, Michigan.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: SCOTT A. WEATHERS, Carmel, Indiana.

RILEY, Judge. VAIDIK, C. J. and MAY, J. concur.

OPINION

Page 695

RILEY, Judge

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Appellant-Defendant, Shane Beal

Page 696

(Beal),[1] appeals the trial court's denial of his motion for summary judgment, concluding that a genuine issue of material fact exist as to whether Beal's representation of Appellee-Plaintiff, Edwin Blinn, Jr. (Blinn), in a federal criminal case constituted legal malpractice.

We affirm.

ISSUES

Beal raises three issues on appeal, which we consolidate and restate as the following two issues:

(1) Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Beal's motion to strike Blinn's expert evidence; and

(2) Whether the trial court erred in determining that a genuine issue of material fact exists in a legal malpractice case where the conduct of an attorney resulted in the indictment of his client and subsequent voluntary guilty plea.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The facts of the instant case have been analyzed in several opinions issued by this court and our federal counterpart. See U.S. v. Blinn, 490 F.3d 586, 588 (7th Cir. 2007); Beal v. Blinn, 895 N.E.2d 424 (Ind.Ct.App. 2008); Blinn v. Law Fccirm of Johnson, Beaman, Bratch, Beal and White, LLP, 948 N.E.2d 814 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011); Blinn v. Kammen, No. 27A04-1008-PL-532, (Ind.Ct.App. June 30, 2011). This most recent installment in a never-ending legal malpractice saga focuses squarely on the issue at the heart of the dispute: Beal's actions and conduct during his representation of Blinn in a federal drug and money laundering investigation.

In early 2003, Beal represented Blinn in a criminal matter which was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). During the investigation, Beal allowed Blinn to enter into a proffer agreement with the United States Government, which, by its express terms, anticipates and requires multiple interviews and debriefings. In exchange for Blinn's truthful cooperation, the Government would allow Blinn to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed not to use Blinn's statements against him if the Government later decided to file more serious charges. On April 22, 2003, at the conclusion of the first proffer session, Beal advised that Blinn had more information and the proffer session would reconvene on a different day.

Between April 22, 2003 and June 2003, federal agents attempted to contact Beal on different occasions to schedule a follow-up proffer session with Blinn. On or about September 9, 2003, federal agents contacted Beal's office again. After getting no response to their phone calls, the Agents travelled to Marion, Indiana where they cornered Beal at the court house. When confronted by the federal agents, Beal declared that " Blinn was no longer interested in cooperating with the [G]overnment." (Appellant's App. p. 62). The Government indicted Blinn on a federal felony money laundering charge.

From April 22, 2003 to September 2003, Beal did not inform Blinn of the FBI's requests for an additional interview, nor did Beal inquire after Blinn's willingness to continue to cooperate with the FBI. Instead, Beal only informed Blinn of ...


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