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Miller v. Danz

Supreme Court of Indiana

June 29, 2015

JEFFREY M. MILLER AND CYNTHIA S. MILLER, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
KRISTINE C. DANZ, Appellee (Defendant)

Appeal from the Marion Superior Court. The Honorable Michael D. Keele, Judge. Cause No. 49D07-1003-PL-14761. On Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 49A05-1401-PL-45.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: Kevin W. Betz, Sandra L. Blevins, Jamie A. Maddox, Betz & Blevins, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Daniel D. Trachtman, Erica K. Drew, Wooden & McLaughlin LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana; Andrew W. Hull, Alice M. Morical, Amanda L.B. Mulroony, Hoover Hull LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Dickson, Justice. Rush, C.J., and Rucker, David, and Massa, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Dickson, Justice.

This appeal challenges summary judgment in favor of a named defendant substituted in an amended complaint for a previously unknown " John Doe" defendant after expiration of the applicable statute of limitations. We affirm.

This particular appeal stems from ongoing litigation involving Jeffrey M. Miller, former president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana, Inc. (" JACI" ), and his wife Cynthia S. Miller.[1] Following a lost job opportunity with the Indianapolis Mayor's Office, Miller[2] filed a complaint on March 31, 2010. Miller filed multiple amended complaints, ultimately alleging several individuals and organizations committed torts against Miller, including defamation per se, defamation per quod, invasion of privacy--false light, tortious interference with a business relationship, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. On January 31, 2012, Miller filed a Fourth Amended Complaint to add " JOHN DOE #8, a partner, employee or agent of Ice Miller, LLP" as a defendant in the action and alleged that John Doe #8 told Ms. Cotterill, who in turn told Mr. Cotterill, that " CICF was planning to sue Mrs. Miller for misappropriation of funds." Appellants' App'x at 225, 236. And on February 8, 2013, Miller requested leave to file a Fifth Amended Complaint, " to substitute . . . Kristine C. Danz, as a substitute for John Does #8, a partner, employee or agent of Ice Miller, LLP." Id. at 281. Miller claimed " the identity of Ms. Danz as John Doe #8 was only recently discovered on January 18, 2013" during a deposition. Id. at 283.

Danz moved for summary judgment on grounds that Miller's attempt to add her as a named party was barred by the two-year statute of limitations and, further, that Miller's claims for defamation failed on the merits. After a hearing at which the parties primarily argued the statute of limitations issue, the trial court granted Danz's motion for summary judgment and directed that final judgment be entered. The trial court did not issue findings of fact or conclusions of law. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Miller v. Danz, 27 N.E.3d 774 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015).

We review a summary judgment decision de novo, applying the same standard as the trial court. A trial court is not required to enter findings of fact or conclusions of law on summary judgment, and we may affirm a grant of summary judgment upon any theory supported by the evidence. See Alva Elec., Inc. v. Evansville-Vanderburgh Sch. Corp., 7 N.E.3d 263, 267 (Ind. 2014). Summary judgment may be granted or affirmed only " if the designated evidentiary matter shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Ind. Trial Rule 56(C), quoted in David v. Kleckner, 9 N.E.3d 147, 149 (Ind. 2014). Interpretation of our Trial Rules is also a question of law that we review de novo. State v. Holtsclaw, 977 N.E.2d 348, 349 (Ind. 2012).

Miller appeals the grant of summary judgment in Danz's favor, arguing in part that " Rule 17(F) of the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure" allows the true name of a John Doe to be " inserted by amendment at any time" and that his lack of knowledge of Danz's identity would qualify as a mistake for purposes of relation back under Trial Rule 15(C). Appellants' Br. at i. Danz responds in part that lack of knowledge of a defendant's identity does not constitute a mistake under Rule 15(C).

Trial Rule 17 discusses the method of naming parties. As relevant here, it provides:

(F) Unknown persons.

When the name or existence of a person is unknown, he may be named as an unknown party, and when his true name is discovered his name may be inserted by amendment at any time.

Ind. Trial Rule 17(F) (emphases added). Trial Rule 15 governs the amendment of pleadings, providing in relevant part:

(A) Amendments.

A party may amend his pleading once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served or, if the pleading is one to which no responsive pleading is permitted, and the action has not been placed upon the trial calendar, he may so amend it at any time within thirty [30] days after it is served. Otherwise a party may amend his pleading only by leave of ...


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