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State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Radcliff

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 16, 2014

STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY COMPANY, Appellant-Plaintiff/Counterclaim/Defendant,
v.
JOSEPH MARTIN RADCLIFF and COASTAL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT, LLC, a/k/a CPM CONSTRUCTION OF INDIANA, Appellees-Defendants/Counterclaimants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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APPEAL FROM THE HAMILTON SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Steven R. Nation, Judge. Cause No. 29D01-0810-CT-1281.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DENNIS F. CANTRELL, Cantrell Strenski & Mehringer LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana; DOUGLAS D. CHURCH, Church Church Hittle & Antrim, Noblesville, Indiana; KARL L. MULVANEY, NANA QUAY-SMITH, BRIANA L. CLARK, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana; SHEILA L. BIRNBAUM, DOUGLAS W. DUNHAM, ELLEN P. QUACKENBOS, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, New York, New York.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: JULIA BLACKWELL GELINAS, MAGGIE L. SMITH, Frost Brown Todd LLC, Indianapolis, Indiana; WILLIAM N. RILEY, JOSEPH N. WILLIAMS, Price Waicukauski & Riley LLC, Indianapolis, Indiana; J. MARK McKINZIE, Riley Bennett & Egloff LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.

RILEY, Judge. ROBB, J. and BRADFORD, J. concur.

OPINION

Page 1009

RILEY, Judge

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Appellant-Plaintiff/Counterclaimant-Defendant, State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (State Farm), appeals the trial court's denial of its Trial Rule 60(B) Motion, which rejected its request for relief on the limited issue of defamation after a jury awarded 14.5 million dollars to Appellees-Defendants/Counterclaimants-Plaintiffs, Joseph Martin Radcliff (Radcliff) and Coastal Property Management LLC, a/k/a/ CPM Construction of Indiana (CPM).[1]

We affirm.

ISSUES

State Farm raises four issues which we restate as the following three issues:

(1) Characterizing its T.R. 60(B) Motion as solely a T.R. 60(B)(3) motion based on fraud on the court, State Farm asserts that the trial court abused its discretion by interpreting State Farm's T.R. 60(B) Motion as a T.R. 60(B)(2) motion based on newly discovered evidence and applying T.R. 60(B)(2)'s due diligence requirement to its T.R. 60(B)(3) Motion;
(2) Whether the trial court abused its discretion by denying State Farm's T.R. 60(B) Motion as a matter of law; and
(3) Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying State Farm to engage in further protracted discovery pursuant to T.R. 60(D) and in ruling on the T.R. 60(B) Motion without an evidentiary hearing when Radcliff elected to respond to State Farm's T.R. 60(B) Motion on legal grounds as opposed to factual grounds and therefore no further pertinent evidence would be needed to aid the trial court in its ruling.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 29, 2011, a Hamilton County jury awarded Radcliff $14.5 million, the largest defamation verdict in Indiana history. Before us is the second appeal involving Radcliff's defamation counterclaim against State Farm arising from the Good Friday 2006 hailstorm.

On Good Friday, April 14, 2006, central Indiana suffered a large hailstorm that caused millions of dollars in property damage, generating almost 50,000 State Farm claims. Most of its policyholders' claims were denied by State Farm, even though other insurance companies were paying similar claims. Radcliff and his company, CPM, offered to help the State Farm policyholders. Amid a flurry of bad publicity

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about State Farm's claims response which, in part, was generated by Radcliff, State Farm launched an insurance-fraud investigation into Radcliff and CPM. Radcliff was arrested on fourteen felony counts, but the charges were eventually dismissed pursuant to a diversion agreement with the State. State Farm then sued Radcliff for fraud and racketeering; Radcliff and CPM counterclaimed for, among other things, defamation. In the underlying defamation proceeding, Radcliff and CPM asserted that State Farm had defamed them by: (1) sending information to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)[2] which alleged that Radcliff and/or CPM had engaged in criminal conduct and (2) reviewing the accuracy of the probable cause affidavit which was the basis of the State's Information of fourteen felonies and one misdemeanor. See State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Radcliff, 987 N.E.2d 121, 137, (Ind.Ct.App. 2013), reh'g denied, trans. denied ( State Farm I ).

Following a nearly six-week-long jury trial in which more than forty witnesses testified, a jury returned a $14.5 million verdict in favor of Radcliff and CPM on their defamation counterclaim. State Farm filed a motion to correct error in which it argued that (1) it was entitled to judgment on the evidence on the defamation claim, (2) it was entitled to a new trial under the " thirteenth juror" rule, and (3) the damage award was excessive. See id. at 136-37. The trial court denied the motion in its entirety. See id. at 137.

State Farm appealed. Documents filed in the appeal include twenty volumes of trial transcripts, more than fifteen volumes of exhibits, twelve volumes of appellant's appendix, ten claims notebooks, and other materials. During the appellate briefing stage, State Farm filed a Verified Motion for Limited Remand under Appellate Rule 37 in order to be allowed to file a Trial Rule 60(B) motion because it had " received a sworn statement leading it to believe that fraud was used to obtain the $14.5 million defamation judgment against State Farm and in favor of [CPM]." Id. On July 13, 2012, the motions panel, in a 2-1 decision, denied State Farm's Appellate Rule 37 motion. See id.

In its first appeal, State Farm brought three issues, alleging that: (1) it was entitled to judgment on Radcliff's defamation counterclaim pursuant to two defenses: the public interest privilege for crime reporting and statutory immunity; (2) Radcliff failed to prove actual malice by clear and convincing evidence; and (3) it was entitled to a new trial on damages. Finding that the evidence was sufficient to support Radcliff's and CPM's claim that, as limited-purpose public figures, they had proven by clear and convincing evidence that State Farm's statements were made with actual malice[3] and finding that State Farm had no applicable defenses, we affirmed the trial court. See id. at 148-51.

With respect to State Farm's Claim for Alternate Relief pursuant to its Verified Motion for Limited Remand, we held as follows:

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State Farm makes a request for alternative relief in its reply brief. Because State Farm makes this request for the first time in its reply brief, the issue is waived.
Waiver notwithstanding, State Farm asks us to overrule the motions panel's decision and grant its Verified Motion of Limited Remand under Appellate Rule 37. State Farm argues that is motion presented compelling evidence of fraud on the court and this case should be remanded under Logal v. Cruse, 267 Ind. 83, 368 N.E.2d 235 (Ind. 1977). That is, State Farm claims that there is newly discovered evidence from a former CPM employee, Myisha Richards, alleging again that Radcliff committed fraud--this time, they claim, on the court.
The record shows however, that State Farm was scheduled to depose Richards in November 2009, but the deposition was canceled and never rescheduled. In addition, Richards contacted State Farm about the alleged fraud before State Farm filed its motion to correct error[], yet State Farm did not include this information in its motion to correct error[]. Based on these facts, we will not overrule the motions panel's ruling.

Id. at 155. After our supreme court denied transfer, the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings on State ...


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