Benjamin S. Smith, Appellant-Plaintiff,
Franklin Township Community School Corp., Appellee-Defendant.
from the Marion Superior Court The Hon. James A. Joven, Judge
Trial Court Cause No. 49D13-1810-CT-42794
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT James R. Fisher Debra H. Miller
Miller & Fisher, LLC Indianapolis, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Kevin S, Smith Alexander P. Pinegar
Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim Noblesville, Indiana
In January of 2016, Benjamin Smith's vehicle collided
with a school bus owned and operated by the Franklin Township
School Corporation ("the School") in Indianapolis,
causing him injury. In March of 2016, pursuant to the Indiana
Tort Claims Act ("ITCA"), Smith sent notice to the
School of his intent to file a tort claim ("the ITCA
Notice"). On July 1, 2018, the Claims Against Public
Schools Act ("CAPSA") became law, governing all
civil actions or administrative proceedings brought against
public schools and which includes its own notice provisions.
In October of 2018, Smith filed a negligence suit against the
School, which moved to dismiss Smith's complaint on the
basis that he had failed to provide CAPSA notice prior to
filing. On January 29, 2019, the trial court dismissed
Smith's complaint without prejudice. By this time,
however, the relevant statute of limitations had run,
preventing him from simply refiling. On March 29, 2019, Smith
moved for his complaint to be reinstated pursuant to Indiana
Trial Rule 41(F). On May 9, 2019, the trial court denied
Smith's motion to reinstate. As restated, Smith contends
that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his
motion to reinstate because (1) CAPSA does not apply to his
claim and (2) the ITCA Notice also satisfied the notice
requirements of CAPSA in any event. Because we conclude that
CAPSA does not apply to Smith's claim against the School,
we need not reach his second claim and reverse and remand
and Procedural History
On January 7, 2016, Smith was involved in a collision between
his vehicle and a school bus owned and operated by the
School, suffering injuries. Smith sent the School an ITCA
Notice on March 15, 2016, via certified mail. On July 1,
2018, CAPSA became law, governing all civil actions or
administrative proceedings "brought against a public
school under the laws of […] the United States  or
[…] Indiana." Ind. Code § 34-13-3.5-1;
see generally Ind. Code ch. 34-13-3.5. CAPSA
requires, inter alia, that a potential plaintiff
give notice of a civil lawsuit to a public school before it
can be initiated, which notice must include a request for
relief and an opportunity for the school to respond. On
October 24, 2018, nine days prior to the running of the
relevant statute of limitations, Smith filed a negligence
complaint against the School, prior to which he did not
provide the School with a separate CAPSA notice.
On December 26, 2018, the School moved to dismiss Smith's
complaint on the basis that he had failed to provide CAPSA
notice prior to filing his complaint. On or about January 14,
2019, Smith sent a letter to the School demanding $500,
000.00 to settle his claim and asking for a response within
fifteen days. On January 29, 2019, the trial court dismissed
Smith's complaint without prejudice. By this time,
however, the relevant statute of limitations had run.
On March 29, 2019, Smith moved for his complaint to be
reinstated pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 41(F). Smith
alleged, inter alia, that "[p]ursuant to Trial
Rule 41, good cause exist[ed] to reinstate this matter and
for all other relief just and proper in the premises[.]"
Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 18. On April 15, 2019, the
School responded, alleging that Smith had failed to establish
good cause to reinstate his complaint because he had not
established compliance with CAPSA's notice requirement.
The same day, Smith filed a second motion to reinstate his
complaint. On May 8, 2019, Smith filed a memorandum in
support of his second motion to reinstate, arguing that (1)
the notice requirements of ITCA are the only ones that apply
to this case, (2) the ITCA Notice satisfied those
requirements and (3) dismissal for failure to comply with the
recently-enacted CAPSA's notice requirements would be
"harsh and […] against the interest of
justice." Appellant's App. p. 44. Smith noted that
CAPSA "did not even exist at the time notice was given,
and only came to be mere months prior to the suit being
filed." Appellant's App. p. 44. On May 9, 2019, the
trial court denied Smith's motion to reinstate.
Smith is appealing from the trial court's denial of his
motion to reinstate his negligence suit against the School.
Indiana Trial Rule 41(F) provides that "[f]or good cause
shown and within a reasonable time the court may set aside a
dismissal without prejudice." We review a trial
court's ruling on a motion to reinstate an involuntary
dismissal for an abuse of discretion. Cloyd v.
Pasternak, 791 N.E.2d 757, 758 (Ind.Ct.App. 2003).
"Judicial discretion has been defined as a judge's
privilege to decide and act in accordance with what is fair
and equitable within the confines of justice."
Id. at 759. "Our review of an exercise of
judicial discretion must be made in light of and confined to
the facts and circumstances of a particular case."
Id. We will uphold the trial court's decision
unless it "is clearly ...