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Scribbles, LLC v. Wedgewood

Court of Appeals of Indiana

April 27, 2018

Scribbles, LLC, Pittsboro Christian Church, d/b/a Scribbles Ministry of Pittsboro Christian Church, Christeen Michael, and Debbie Spurlock, Appellants/Defendants,
v.
Camden "Jax" Wedgewood, by next of friend Brian Scott Wedgewood, Hannah Jade Hill, and Camden Riley Wedgewood, Appellees/Plaintiffs.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Courts The Honorable James A. Joven, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49D13-1702-CT-7313.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT, PITTSBORO CHRISTIAN CHURCH, D/B/A SCRIBBLES MINISTRY OF PITTSBORO CHRISTIAN CHURCH Robert B. Thornburg Julia Blackwell Gelinas Maggie L. Smith Frost Brown Todd LLC Indianapolis, Indiana Katherine J. Noel Noel Law Kokomo, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT, SCRIBBLES LLC Scott P. Sullivan Flynn & Sullivan PC Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT, CHRISTEEN MICHAEL Jan N. Campbell Jeffrey R. Oberlies Leeuw Oberlies & Campbell Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT, DEBBIE SPURLOCK Kyle Michael Baker Salma Naji Qaddourah McNeely, Stephenson Shelbyville, Indiana

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES Nicholas C. Deets Hovde Dassow & Deets LLC Indianapolis, Indiana.

          Pyle, Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] In this interlocutory appeal, Scribbles, LLC ("Scribbles"); Pittsboro Christian Church d/b/a Scribbles Ministry of Pittsboro Christian Church ("the Church"); Christeen Michael ("Michael"); and Debbie Spurlock ("Spurlock") (collectively "the Defendants") appeal the trial court's denial of their motion to transfer venue to Hendricks County in a negligence action filed against them in Marion County by infant Camden "Jax" Wedgewood ("Infant Wedgewood"), by his next friend, his grandfather, Brian Scott Wedgewood ("Grandfather"); Hannah Jade Hill ("Mother"); and Camden Riley Wedgewood ("Father") (collectively ("the Plaintiffs")). Because Hendricks County is a preferred venue and Marion County is not, the trial court erred in denying the Defendants' motion to transfer venue to Hendricks County. We therefore reverse and remand with instructions for the trial court to grant the Defendants' motion and transfer this case to Hendricks County.

         [¶2] We reverse and remand with instructions.

         Issue

         The sole issue for our review is whether the trial court erred in denying the Defendants' motion to transfer venue.

         Facts

         [¶3] Scribbles and the Church operate a child care ministry located in Hendricks County. Michael is an infant caregiver at Scribbles, and Spurlock is the director. Both women are Hendricks County residents. Infant Wedgewood, Grandfather, Mother, and Father are also Hendricks County residents.

         [¶4] In January 2016, Infant Wedgewood began attending Scribbles. Shortly thereafter, he suffered a catastrophic brain injury. The following year, the Plaintiffs filed a two-count complaint in the Marion Superior Court. The first count was a negligence action against Scribbles, the Church, Michael, and Spurlock. The second count was a claim for a declaratory judgment against the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). Specifically, the Plaintiffs explained that Infant Wedgewood was a beneficiary of the Indiana Medicaid Plan ("the Plan") and asked the trial court to determine whether the Plan had a lien on the Plaintiffs' recovery and, if so, the amount of the lien.[1]The Defendants all raised the affirmative defense of improper venue under Indiana Trial Rule 75 in their respective answers. They all also alleged that it was the Plaintiffs who were at fault for Infant Wedgewood's injuries. FSSA did not respond to the complaint.

         [¶5] In May 2017, the Defendants filed a joint motion to transfer venue wherein they asked the trial court to transfer venue from Marion County to Hendricks County because Marion County was not a preferred venue. The Plaintiffs responded that Marion County was a preferred venue pursuant to Trial Rule 75(A)(5) because FSSA was a governmental organization located in Marion County. The trial court concluded that "Marion County [was] a preferred venue and the Court lack[ed] the ...


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