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Robinson v. Robinson

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 13, 2019

Rea Robinson, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Radley Robinson, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Tammy L. Ortman Jennifer S. Ortman Lewis & Kappes, P.C. Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Michael D. Dobosz Hilbrich Cunningham Dobosz & Sandoval, LLP Highland, Indiana

          Appeal from the Lake Superior Court The Honorable Calvin D. Hawkins, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 45D02-1704-EM-9

          NAJAM, JUDGE.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Radley Robinson filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against his sister Rea Robinson seeking to enforce a transfer on death deed executed by their mother, Miriana Robinson. After she had executed the transfer on death deed, Miriana executed and delivered a quitclaim deed transferring title in her home to Rea. After Miriana's death, Rea claimed sole title to the real estate. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Radley and concluded that, under the transfer on death deed, Radley and Rea owned Miriana's home as tenants in common.

         [¶2] Rea appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Radley, and she presents two issues for our review:

1. Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it struck two affidavits Rea had designated on summary judgment.
2. Whether the trial court erred when it denied her motion for summary judgment and entered summary judgment for Radley.

         [¶3] We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand with instructions.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶4] On October 24, 2014, Miriana Robinson executed a transfer on death deed ("TOD deed") whereby her fee simple title in her residence in Munster ("the real estate") would transfer to her children Rea and Radley as tenants in common upon Miriana's death. That TOD deed was recorded on November 12. Nearly two years later, on October 5, 2016, Miriana executed and delivered a quitclaim deed transferring her interest in the real estate to Rea, effective immediately. The quitclaim deed was not recorded before Miriana's death on November 18. Rather, Rea recorded the quitclaim deed on December 27.

         [¶5] On April 6, 2017, Radley filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that "the beneficiary designations in the Robinson TOD Deed were not revoked" and that, "upon Miriana Robinson's death, [the real estate] was transferred to [Rea and Radley] as tenants in common." Appellant's App. Vol. II at 16. In June 2018, Radley moved for summary judgment. Rea filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court denied Rea's motion and granted Radley's motion for summary judgment. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         Issue One: Motion to Strike Affidavits

         [¶6] Rea first contends that the trial court abused its discretion when it granted Radley's motion to strike two affidavits that Rea had designated as evidence on summary judgment. The trial court has broad discretion in ruling on the admissibility of evidence. Price v. Freeland, 832 N.E.2d 1036, 1039 (Ind.Ct.App. 2005). And "[t]his discretion extends to rulings on motions to strike affidavits on the grounds that they fail to comply with the summary judgment rules." Id. An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court's decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances of the case, or if it misinterprets the law. Lytle v. Ford Motor Co., 814 N.E.2d 301, 315 (Ind.Ct.App. 2004), trans. denied. Evidentiary material used in association with a motion for summary judgment must set forth only information that would be admissible at trial. Id. (citing Ind. Trial Rule 56(E)).

         [¶7] In support of her summary judgment motion, Rea designated as evidence two affidavits: one executed by her and a second executed by a family friend, Chris Bonefacic. Those affidavits included the affiants' impressions of Miriana's feelings with respect to certain events involving Radley as well as Miriana's reasons for executing the quitclaim deed and for changing her will to exclude Radley. In his motion to strike the affidavits, Radley asserted in relevant part that the affidavits were irrelevant and, therefore, inadmissible under Indiana Evidence Rule 401.

         [¶8] We agree with Radley that the relevant facts underlying the summary judgment in his favor are not in dispute, and the issue on summary judgment presents a pure question of law. The parties agree that: Miriana executed and recorded a TOD deed; Miriana then executed and delivered, but did not record, a quitclaim deed; and the only recorded deed at the time of Miriana's death was the TOD deed. The sole issue on summary judgment was whether Miriana's residence belonged to Rea and Radley under the TOD deed or to Rea under the quitclaim deed. Nothing in the two affidavits proffered ...


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