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McKinley, Inc. v. Skyllas

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 30, 2017

McKinley, Inc. a/k/a McKinley Associates, Inc. d/b/a Summer Wood Apartment Homes, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Michelle Skyllas, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Lake Superior Court. Trial Court Cause No. 45D04-1101-CT-12 The Honorable Bruce D. Parent, Judge.

          Attorneys for Appellants Larry L. Barnard, Eric M. Blume, Carson Boxberger LLP Fort Wayne, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellee Adam J. Sedia, Rubino, Ruman, Crosmer & Polen Dyer, Indiana

          Sharpnack, Senior Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] McKinley, Inc., appeals the trial court's grant of Michelle Skyllas' motion to correct error, which set aside the trial court's prior grant of summary judgment to McKinley. McKinley also appeals the trial court's grant of Skyllas' motion to withdraw and amend admissions. We reverse and remand with instructions.[1]

         Issue

         [¶2] McKinley raises three issues, which we consolidate and restate as: Whether the trial court erred by granting Skyllas' motions.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] Skyllas hired her second cousin, attorney Samuel Vazanellis, to sue McKinley. Skyllas filed suit on January 12, 2011, claiming she was injured on January 25, 2009, in a slip and fall on McKinley's property. She alleged McKinley negligently failed to remove snow and ice. McKinley filed a third-party complaint against Snow Pros, Inc., claiming Snow Pros was responsible for removing snow and ice on its property.

         [¶4] Skyllas concedes that Vazanellis was uncommunicative from the beginning of their attorney-client relationship, and that she had to approach him at family gatherings to obtain information about her case. Meanwhile, he failed to litigate her case. In 2015, McKinley filed two motions to dismiss Skyllas' complaint due to inactivity, pursuant to Trial Rule 41(E). The court denied the motions.

         [¶5] On May 12, 2016, the court set discovery deadlines. On May 13, 2016, McKinley served a request for admissions on Skyllas through Vazanellis. The request for admissions included potentially dispositive admissions, such as "Skyllas has no evidence that McKinley was negligent in any way" and "Skyllas did not suffer any injuries or damages as a result of the incident." Appellants' App. p. 47. Skyllas' response to the request for admissions was due within thirty days. Meanwhile, Snow Pros served interrogatories on Skyllas through Vazanellis.

         [¶6] Vazanellis continued to avoid communicating with Skyllas. From April through August 2016, Skyllas called his office a total of fifteen to twenty times and called his personal number weekly, and he never responded. Vazanellis also ignored her biweekly texts. In late May or early June 2016, Skyllas met with Vazanellis' wife at his office to prepare answers to Snow Pros' interrogatories. Vazanellis talked with Skyllas but did not mention the request for admissions. He told her that "he had filed everything that needed to be filed, " and everything was "under control." Id. at 65.

         [¶7] On June 27, 2016, the trial court set a deadline for dispositive motions. McKinley timely filed a motion for summary judgment against Skyllas, attaching Skyllas' admissions. She did not respond within the thirty-day ...


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