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Holland v. Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 28, 2018

Douglas C. Holland, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Dearborn Superior Court The Honorable Jonathan N. Cleary, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 15D01-1709-PL-43

          Appellant Pro Se Douglas C. Holland Lawrenceburg, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellee Michelle A. Cobourn-Baurley Shelbyville, Indiana

          BAKER, JUDGE.

         [¶1] Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance (Farm Bureau) sued attorney Douglas Holland to recover money owed to it from a subrogation claim that arose from Holland's representation of a woman (Client) who was injured in a vehicle collision. Farm Bureau and Holland filed competing motions for summary judgment on Farm Bureau's ability to recover its money from Holland, rather than Client. The trial court found in favor of Farm Bureau, and Holland now appeals. Finding that the statute of limitations expired before Farm Bureau filed its complaint, we reverse and remand.

         Facts[1]

         [¶2] On September 19, 2012, Client was injured in a vehicle collision, after which Client retained Holland as her attorney in her personal injury lawsuit against the tortfeasor. On November 20, 2012, Farm Bureau, which insured Client, paid $5, 000 toward Client's medical bills. In December 2014, the personal injury lawsuit settled in Client's favor and on December 22, 2014, Holland filed a motion to dismiss it, which the trial court granted. Holland requested Client to allow him to retain $3, 500 of her settlement to cover any subrogation claims that Farm Bureau might have for one year beginning on December 22, 2014.

         [¶3] Meanwhile, on August 28, 2014, Farm Bureau submitted a notice of its lien rights to Holland. On September 4, 2014, Holland acknowledged the lien in writing. On October 31, 2014, Holland called Farm Bureau's counsel's office and requested that Farm Bureau waive its subrogation claim. Holland and Farm Bureau then unsuccessfully tried to negotiate the subrogation amount. On June 9, 2015, Farm Bureau asked that Holland request a damages hearing so that the trial court presiding over Client's lawsuit against the tortfeasor could determine the amount of the subrogation claim. Holland stated that the lawsuit had been dismissed and that Farm Bureau would have to file a small claim to determine what amount, if any, Client owed it. This exchange was apparently the last one between the parties for the remainder of 2015. On December 29, 2015, Client asked Holland to return to her the balance of the settlement; Holland complied.

         [¶4] Then, on July 13, 2017, Farm Bureau made a formal demand for payment of its subrogation claim. On September 14, 2017, Farm Bureau filed a complaint against Holland for its subrogation claim for $3, 333, alleging that Holland breached the fiduciary duty he owed to Farm Bureau and that he breached the constructive trust imposed on the money at issue. On September 27, 2017, Holland filed his answer, alleging that he had no legal authority to pay Farm Bureau without Client's consent. That same day, he filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the statute of limitations had run and that he had no legal requirement to withhold subrogation funds from Client's settlement.

         [¶5] On October 27, 2017, Farm Bureau filed its own motion for summary judgment, arguing that it had a medical payments lien, that Holland had a fiduciary duty to Farm Bureau, that a constructive trust was created when Holland received funds in which Farm Bureau had an interest, and that the applicable statute of limitations is six years and had not yet run.

         [¶6] On January 18, 2018, a hearing on the motions for summary judgment took place. Following the hearing, the trial court granted Farm Bureau's motion for summary judgment and motion to strike, ordering Holland to pay Farm Bureau $3, 333, and denied Holland's motion for summary judgment. The trial court did not issue findings of fact or conclusions of law. On February 13, 2018, Holland filed a motion to correct error, arguing that the trial court erred by granting Farm Bureau's motion for summary judgment. That same day, he filed two more motions for summary judgment: one arguing that there is no subject matter jurisdiction in this case because Farm Bureau's claim is a contractual one and Farm Bureau has not presented any legal theory of liability against Holland; and one arguing that as an agent, he was not liable to Farm Bureau. The trial court denied all three post-judgment motions. Holland now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶7] Holland raises three issues on appeal, one of which we find dispositive: whether the trial court erred by granting Farm Bureau's motion for summary judgment and by denying Holland's motion for summary judgment.[2]

         [¶8] Our standard of review on summary judgment ...


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