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Walters v. Lima Elevator Company, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 26, 2017

Harold David Walters, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Lima Elevator Company, Inc., Appellee-Plaintiff

         Appeal from the LaGrange Circuit Court The Honorable J. Scott VanDerbeck Trial Court Cause No. 44C01-1604-CC-52

          Attorney for Appellant John J. Schwarz, II Schwarz Law Office, PC

          Attorneys for Appellee William A. Ramsey Barrett McNagny, LLP Edmund P. Kos David M. Mustard Kos & Associates

          May, Judge.

         [¶1] Harold David Walters ("Walters") appeals the trial court's grant of Lima Elevator Company's ("Lima") motion to correct error. He argues the trial court erred when it determined it had specific personal jurisdiction over him. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On April 26, 2016, Lima filed a claim against Walters, a resident of Michigan, in LaGrange Circuit Court for non-payment of a purchase made on April 30, 2010. On June 17, 2016, Walters filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. On June 20, 2016, the trial court granted Walters' motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

         [¶3] On July 18, 2016, Lima filed a motion to correct error, alleging the court erred when it granted Walters' motion to dismiss because the facts underlying Walters' motion were unsupported by affidavit or verified pleading. Based thereon, Lima claimed Walters failed to meet his burden to prove lack of personal jurisdiction.[1] Walters responded on August 10, 2016, and on August 30, 2016, the trial court granted Lima's motion to correct error, concluding it had specific personal jurisdiction over Walters.

         Discussion and Decision

          [¶4] A trial court has broad discretion in ruling on a motion to correct error.[2] Volunteers of Am. v. Premier Auto Acceptance Corp., 755 N.E.2d 656, 658 (Ind.Ct.App. 2001). We will reverse only for an abuse of that discretion. Id. An abuse of discretion occurs if the decision was against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before the court or if the court misapplied the law. Id.

         [¶5] Our review of a trial court's decision regarding personal jurisdiction is well-settled:

"Personal jurisdiction is the court's power to bring a person into its adjudicative process and render a valid judgment over a person." Brockman v. Kravic, 779 N.E.2d 1250, 1254 (Ind.Ct.App. 2002). "The existence of personal jurisdiction over a defendant is a constitutional requirement to rendering a valid judgment, mandated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Anthem Ins. Cos. v. Tenet Healthcare Corp., 730 N.E.2d 1227, 1237 (Ind. 2000). "Because Indiana state trial courts are courts of general jurisdiction, jurisdiction is presumed. Therefore, the plaintiff need not allege jurisdiction in its complaint." Id. at 1231 (footnote [o]mitted). "[O]nce the party contesting jurisdiction, usually the defendant, challenges the lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff must present evidence to show that there is personal jurisdiction over the defendant. However, the defendant bears the burden of proving the lack of personal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence, unless the lack of jurisdiction is apparent on the face of the complaint." Id. "It is within the trial court's sound discretion to decide the jurisdictional facts." Brockman, 779 N.E.2d at 1255. "A trial court's findings of jurisdictional facts are generally reviewed for clear error. Once the court has decided those facts, however, whether personal jurisdiction exists is a question of law. We review a trial court's determination of personal jurisdiction de novo." Id. (citations omitted).

Keesling v. Winstead, 858 N.E.2d 996, 1000-1 (Ind.Ct.App. 2006).

         [¶6] Here, the trial court found Walters "purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting business with Lima Elevator within Indiana, such that he could reasonably anticipate defending a lawsuit in Indiana related to his failure to pay for his credit purchases that he picked up from Lima Elevator in Indiana." (App. Vol. II at 7.) Based on that finding, the trial ...


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