from the Lake Superior Court The Honorable John M. Sedia,
Judge Trial Court Cause No. 45D01-1405-CT-113
Attorneys for Appellant Richard K. Shoultz Neal Bowling Lewis
Wagner, LLP Indianapolis, Indiana Paul B. Poracky Koransky
Bouwer & Poracky, P.C. Dyer, Indiana
Attorney for Appellees William H. Walden Munster, Indiana.
SHARPNACK, SENIOR JUDGE
of the Case
Ana Martins appeals the trial court's order granting
Richard and Diana Hill's Motion to Enforce
Unconditionally Accepted Qualified Settlement Offer. We
reverse and remand.
Martins raises one issue, which we restate as: whether the
trial court erred in granting the Hills' Motion.
and Procedural History
On August 15, 2012, Ana Martins rode her bike on or near a
paved bike path in Crown Point, Indiana. The Hills were
riding a tandem bike on the same path, and they and Martins
collided. The Hills and Martins each claimed to have suffered
injuries from the collision.
This case began on May 9, 2014, when the Hills filed a
complaint against Martins and the City of Crown Point. The
Hills alleged that Martins was negligent and that the City
negligently designed, constructed, and operated the bike
On June 13, 2014, attorney Julie Havenith filed an appearance
on behalf of Martins. After requesting and receiving an
extension of time, Martins, through Attorney Havenith, filed
an answer to the Hills' complaint on August 13, 2014.
Martins denied liability and raised affirmative defenses,
including contributory negligence.
Meanwhile, on August 7, 2014, attorney Paul Poracky also
filed an appearance on behalf of Martins. That same day,
Martins, through Attorney Poracky, filed a counterclaim
against the Hills, alleging negligence.
On October 19, 2015, attorney Richard K. Shoultz filed an
appearance on behalf of Martins. Next, Attorney Havenith
withdrew her appearance. On December 18, 2015, Martins,
through Attorney Shoultz, moved to extend the discovery and
mediation deadlines. The trial court granted the request.
Meanwhile, the case was submitted to mediation by order of
the court. On August 25, 2016, the mediator reported to the
trial court that the parties could not reach an agreement.
The case continued to move forward, with Attorneys Poracky
and Shoultz separately filing pleadings on behalf of Martins.
Attorney Shoultz also communicated with the Hills'
attorneys. On September 4, 2018, the Hills filed a Motion to
Enforce Unconditionally Accepted Qualified Settlement Offer,
citing recent communication among the attorneys. Martins,
through Attorney Shoultz, filed a response. We discuss the
circumstances of the purported settlement offer and purported
acceptance in more detail below.
The trial court held a hearing on September 19, 2018, and
granted the Hills' motion. The court ordered that
"the settlement of this case, including the filing of a
stipulated dismissal of the Hills' claim and Martins'
counterclaim with prejudice, be completed within thirty (30)
days of the date of this order." Appellant's App.
Vol. II, p. 18. The court further designated its order as a
final judgment. Martins filed a motion to correct error,
which the court denied. This appeal followed.
Martins argues that the trial court erred in determining the
parties had negotiated a valid settlement agreement and
ordering that it be implemented. There are no factual
disputes, and the parties are raising questions of law, which
we review de novo. See Conwell v. Gray Loon Outdoor Mktg.
Grp, Inc., 906 N.E.2d 805, 813 (Ind. 2009) (whether a
contract exists is a question of law).
Settlement agreements are governed by principles of contract
law. Ind. State Highway Comm'n v. Curtis, 704
N.E.2d 1015, 1018 (Ind. 1998). A valid contract requires
offer, acceptance, consideration, and manifestation of mutual
assent. Family Video Movie Club, Inc. v. Home Folks,
Inc., 827 N.E.2d 582, 585 (Ind.Ct.App. 2005).
The General Assembly has enacted Indiana Code section
34-50-1-1 et seq., known collectively as the Qualified
Settlement Offer statutes, to govern a subset of settlement
discussions in tort cases. Ind. Code § 34-50-1-1 (1998).
If a party presents a qualified settlement offer under the
statutes, and the other party does not accept the offer and
later receives a judgment that is less favorable than the
terms of the offer, the trial court "shall" award