from the Porter Superior Court The Honorable Roger V.
Bradford, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 64D01-1706-CT-5809
Attorney for Appellant Mark J. Schocke Highland, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Crystal G. Rowe Alyssa C.B. Cochran
Kightlinger & Gray, LLP New Albany, Indiana Galen A.
Bradley Merrillville, Indiana
of the Case
Ismael Alicea appeals the trial court's grant of partial
summary judgment in favor of Ronald Brown on Alicea's
claim for punitive damages. Alicea presents a single issue
for our review, namely, whether the trial court erred when it
granted Brown's partial summary judgment motion. We
reverse and remand for further proceedings.
and Procedural History
On October 10, 2016, between approximately 3:15 and 3:30
p.m., while he was driving his truck from Hobart to
Valparaiso, Brown drank two-and-one-half twelve-ounce beers.
At approximately 3:30 p.m., Brown rear-ended a vehicle being
driven by Alicea. Brown immediately fled the scene without
talking to Alicea. Brown "didn't want to get caught
drinking beer" while driving. Appellee's App. Vol.
II at 13.
Later that day, a Porter County Sheriff's deputy arrived
at Brown's property, saw the damaged truck, and asked
Brown whether he had driven it earlier that day. Brown lied
to the deputy and said that he had not driven the truck that
day and that he did not know who had driven it. Brown
suggested that someone could have stolen the truck. The
deputy administered a portable breath test on Brown, which
showed that Brown's BAC was ".02 or .03."
Id. at 15. The deputy attempted to administer a few
field sobriety tests, but Brown told him that he could not do
them because of a "bad knee." Id. The
deputy impounded Brown's truck. Brown later recovered his
truck from impound, but he never told law enforcement that he
was the driver who had collided with Alicea's vehicle on
October 10 because he "didn't want to get
On June 15, 2017, Alicea filed a complaint against Brown
alleging negligence and seeking damages. After Brown
testified during a deposition that he had been drinking and
driving at the time of the collision, Alicea subsequently
filed an amended complaint to seek punitive damages. Brown
moved for partial summary judgment only on the punitive
damages claim. The trial court granted that motion following
a hearing. This appeal ensued.
Our standard of review for summary judgment appeals is well
We review summary judgment de novo, applying the same
standard as the trial court: "Drawing all reasonable
inferences in favor of . . . the non-moving parties, summary
judgment is appropriate '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
judgment as a matter of law.'" Williams v.
Tharp, 914 N.E.2d 756, 761 (Ind. 2009) (quoting T.R.
56(C)). "A fact is 'material' if its resolution
would affect the outcome of the case, and an issue is
'genuine' if a trier of fact is required to resolve
the parties' differing accounts of the truth, or if the
undisputed material facts support conflicting reasonable
inferences." Id. (internal citations omitted).
The initial burden is on the summary-judgment movant to
"demonstrate the absence of any genuine issue of
fact as to a determinative issue," at which point the
burden shifts to the non-movant to "come forward with
contrary evidence" showing an issue for the trier of
fact. Id. at 761-62 (internal quotation marks and
substitution omitted). And "[a]lthough the non-moving
party has the burden on appeal of persuading us that the
grant of summary ...