Articles Posted in Indiana Supreme Court

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Petitioner appealed a Marshall County Drainage Board order assessing him a portion of a drain-reconstruction project's costs, contending that he received no benefit from the project because his land was adequately drained before the reconstruction. The Supreme Court affirmed the assessment because under Indiana law, holding (1) Indiana law allows a drainage board to assess a benefit to a tract of land based solely on the fact that surface water from that land flows into the regulated drain for which the assessment is levied; and (2) as a result, the trial court's order - which found that the Board's decision to attribute a benefit to Petitioner on this bases was not arbitrary, capricious, or unlawful, and was supported by substantial evidence - was not erroneous.

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In this case the Supreme Court examined whether income received by a corporation's affiliated foreign reinsurance companies falls within the ambit of Indiana's gross premium privilege tax statute and is on that basis exempt from Indiana adjusted gross income tax. The corporation in this case was UPS, which protested the Indiana Department of Revenue's audit, which disallowed the exclusion from Indiana adjusted gross income the income of UPS's affiliates. The Indiana tax court granted UPS's motion for summary judgment, reasoning that because UPS was "subject to" the premium tax, it was exempt from the adjusted gross income tax. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the record did not establish that during the years in question UPS's affiliates were doing business within the state of Indiana, which was a necessary condition in order to be "subject to" the premium tax, UPS failed in its burden of establishing that it was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Remanded.

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A federal lawsuit was brought by 128 Indiana landowners whose lands were burdened by railroad easements. Together those easements composed a railroad corridor approximately twenty-one miles in length. Because the rail lines were no longer in use, the railroad, pursuant to federal law, sought authorization from the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to abandon the easements. The STB authorized the railroad to negotiate transfer of the railroad corridor to the Indiana Trails Fund for use as a public trail ("interim trail use") in accordance with the National Trails System Act, which authorizes the STB to facilitate such transactions to preserve established railroad rights-of-way for future reactivation ("railbanking"). The court of federal claims certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether railbanking and interim trail use pursuant to the Trails Act were permitted uses within the scope of the easements under Indiana law. The Court answered in the negative, holding that railbanking and interim trail use were not uses within the scope of the easements, and railbanking with interim trail use did not constitute a permissible shifting public use.

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Under a complex series of arrangements with companies like paper suppliers, printers, and packagers, AOL procured promotional mailers it sent to Indiana residents. AOL filed with the Indiana Department of State Revenue claims for refund of use taxes it paid between 2003 and 2007. The Department denied the claims. The tax court reversed, holding that AOL did not purchase any tangible personal property in a retail transaction with either the assembly houses or letter shops but merely purchased assembly, printing, and mailing services. At issue on appeal was the use tax, which applies to storing, using, or consuming in Indiana tangible personal property acquired in a retail transaction regardless of where that transaction occurred or where the retail merchant was located. The Supreme Court reversed the tax court, holding that because the assembly houses and letter shops were selling at retail, the transactions between AOL and its assembly houses and letter shops constituted retail transactions that triggered Indiana's use tax once AOL used the property in Indiana.

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The Indiana Department of State Revenue conducted an audit of a taxpayer corporation, concluded that the corporation's 2003 tax return did not fairly represent its income from Indiana sources, and proposed an assessment of additional tax liability. On the corporation's appeal of the Department's final determination, the Indiana tax court granted the corporation's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the tax court incorrectly applied a combined scheme of tax statutes and trial rule requirements to the case before it. The Court concluded that the tax court required additional designated evidence, beyond the proposed assessment, in order for the Department to make a prima facie showing as to the absence of any issues of material fact under Ind. Trial R. 56(C). Remanded.

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In 2008, Chrysler offered a buyout program to employees in Kokomo, Indiana. Those employees then applied for unemployment benefits under Indiana's Unemployment Compensation Act. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development denied the claims. The Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development ultimately awarded benefits under a narrow provision of the Act. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the Board's application of the provision was erroneous and inconsistent with the statute. The Supreme Court granted transfer and vacated the court of appeals. The Court then affirmed the decision of the Board, holding that the Board properly applied the law to its findings of fact, and the Board's conclusion that the employees were eligible for benefits was reasonable in light of the evidence before it.

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After Employee was unable to successfully complete her necessary training, Employer gave her the option to resign immediately or to be placed on a thirty-day unpaid leave of absence. Employee opted to resign immediately and thereafter sought unemployment insurance benefits. The Department of Workforce Development denied Employee's application for benefits on the grounds the Employee voluntarily left employment and did so without good cause. An ALJ concluded (1) Employee did not voluntarily quit her position but was constructively discharged, and (2) Employee was disqualified from receiving benefits because she had breached a duty reasonably owed to her employer, which breach constituted just cause for her termination. The Unemployment Insurance Review Board adopted and approved the ALJ's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Employee's claim, holding (1) the Board's finding that Employee breached a duty reasonably owed to Employer was reasonable; and (2) it was reasonable for the Board to find that Employee was discharged for just cause and was therefore ineligible for benefits.

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Franklin Electric formed two new subsidiaries and started new unemployment experience accounts with a low introductory contribution rate for each one, which equaled about half the experience rating of Franklin Electric. The Department of Workforce Development later canceled the subsidiaries' experience accounts, and all experience balances and liabilities reverted to Franklin Electric. The Department also demanded back payments, interest, and a ten percent penalty. A liability administrative law judge (LALJ) affirmed the Department's determination that the three entities were a single employer but waived the penalty imposed by the Department. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted transfer and vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and affirmed the determination of the LALJ, holding (1) the new subsidiaries were not new employers because they were not distinct and segregable from Franklin Electric; (2) Franklin Electric's experience rating should have applied to contributions made by the subsidiaries; and (3) because there was no evidence suggesting improper conduct on the part of Franklin Electric, the penalty was not appropriate.

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This case involved the placement of juvenile A.B., who was being detained at a juvenile center. The juvenile court concluded that A.B. be placed out of state at Canyon State Academy where A.B. could learn to be independent. The Department of Child Services (DCS) overruled the decision, requiring A.B. to be placed at one of several facilities in Indiana. The trial court entered an order of modification, finding that three sections of the Indiana Code allowing the director of DCS to supplant the juvenile court judge in making dispositional decrees affecting children under his jurisdiction were unconstitutional. DCS appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order regarding the constitutionality of the statues, holding that the three statutes do not violate the separation of powers provision of the Indiana constitution. The Court then held that the DCS requirement that A.B. be placed in Indiana rather than out of state at Canyon State Academy was arbitrary and capricious, upheld the trial court's placement of A.B. at Canyon State Academy, and ordered DCS to pay for the placement.

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After sustaining serious injuries from an attack by a rottweiler, six-year-old Shawn Davis, through his mother as his next friend, filed a complaint against defendants Animal Control and the City of Evansville for failing to protect Davis from the attack. The trial court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that defendants were entitled to law enforcement immunity under the Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA). The court of appeals reversed, and defendants sought transfer. At issue was whether defendants were enforcing a law under the ITCA or rather failing to follow their own procedures for determining whether an animal is dangerous. The Supreme Court held that the alleged failure of defendants to follow their procedures constituted at worst a failure to enforce a law, for which defendants were immune from liability under the ITCA. Judgment of the trial court affirmed.