Clifton E. Sharp, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff, and Brianna Finney, Appellee-Claimant,
from the Clark Circuit Court The Honorable J. Terrence Cody,
Special Judge Trial Court Cause No. 10C02-1703-F2-9
Attorney for Estate of Appellant Zachary F. Stewart
Attorney for Appellee Brianna Finney Kevin Howard Willis
After Clifton Sharp died, litigation ensued between Brianna
Finney, who had posted his bond while he was incarcerated,
and his estate (the Estate) as to who is entitled to receive
the bond money. The trial court found that the Estate has
standing to make a claim for the money but that summary
judgment should be entered in favor of Finney. Finding that
the trial court properly concluded that the Estate has
standing but improperly entered judgment beyond that issue
because there are factual matters to be developed, we affirm
in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.
On March 29, 2017, Sharp was charged in Clark County with
multiple felonies, including drug possession, maintaining a
common nuisance, and drug trafficking. The Estate alleges
that while in custody, Sharp negotiated the sale of one of
his vehicles to the family of a fellow inmate in exchange for
$19, 000. The money for the sale was received by Finney, who
used part of it to post Sharp's $10, 000
on January 29, 2018. In April 2018, after Sharp's
release, Finney shot and killed him. At no time was his bond ever
On April 20, 2018, Finney filed a motion in the criminal case
seeking release of the bond money to her. At some point, the
Estate also made a claim for the bond money and asked that it
be released to the Estate.
On July 6, 2018, Finney filed a motion for summary judgment
on the issue of the Estate's standing to claim the bond
money. Included in her designated evidence was her own
affidavit, which attested that she had posted the $10, 000
bond but did not assert that the money belonged to her when
she posted it. Appellee's App. Vol. II p. 12. The Estate
did not file a timely responsive pleading. On August 20,
2018, Finney filed a motion for judgment based on the
Estate's failure to respond to the summary judgment
motion and the Estate filed a response to the motion for
On August 30, 2018, the trial court denied Finney's
summary judgment motion, finding that the Estate had standing
to make a claim. Because the case now presented an issue of
fact, the trial court scheduled an evidentiary hearing.
On October 15, 2018, the trial judge recused himself from the
case. On January 4, 2019, the new judge held a hearing to
familiarize himself with the proceedings and to determine the
best way to move forward. The hearing consisted solely of a
discussion between the attorneys and the judge; no evidence
was presented. On January 28, 2019, the trial court entered
an order, finding that the Estate had standing. It also went
on to address the merits, finding that Finney was entitled to
judgment as a matter of law based on the record before it.
The Estate now appeals.
Our standard of review on summary judgment 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' ...