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Appellate Procedure: Court of Appeals Addresses Cross-Appeals During Interlocutory Review
Posted in Litigation

The Indiana Court of Appeals, Thursday, addressed two issues of appellate procedure on which Indiana’s Rules of Appellate Procedure have little to say:  (1) what issues a party may cross-appeal during an interlocutory appeal; and (2) under what circumstances the Court of Appeals can reconsider an earlier denial of a motion to accept appellate jurisdiction of an interlocutory order.

In Murray v. City of Lawrenceburg, a case involving a property dispute, the plaintiffs filed a complaint and demanded a jury trial.  The defendants answered the complaint, then moved for judgment on the pleadings.  The trial court denied the motion for judgment on the pleadings, and certified the order for interlocutory appeal, but the Indiana Court of Appeals denied the defendants’ motion to accept jurisdiction.

Four months later, the trial court denied the plaintiffs’ demand for a jury trial, and certified that order for interlocutory appeal.  The Court of Appeals accepted jurisdiction over that order.  When the defendants asserted, in a cross-appeal, that the trial court incorrectly denied their motion for judgment on the pleadings, the plaintiffs moved to dismiss the cross-appeal as unrelated to the order at issue.

The Indiana Court of Appeals began with the general rule that “an appellee may cross-appeal simply by presenting cross-appeal issues in the appellee’s brief.”  But, the Court acknowledged, “[o]ur Appellate Rules do not explicitly allow or prohibit cross-appeals to be presented on interlocutory appeals.  The Appellate Rules simply provide for cross-appeals without limiting such to final appeals.  Case law indicates, however, that the issues in an interlocutory appeal are limited to those presented to the trial court in ruling on the interlocutory order.”  Applying this principle, the Court of Appeals concluded that the defendants could not present, in a cross-appeal pertaining to the jury trial order, issues related to their motion for judgment on the pleadings.

But, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that it could – because the earlier decision by the motions panel was not binding on the writing panel and because the appeal remained in fieri – reconsider whether to exercise jurisdiction of the defendants’ interlocutory appeal.  The Court explained that reconsideration should not take place unless “good cause” is shown, but concluded that the defendants had demonstrated good cause because (1) other issues in the case were now being considered on appeal; (2) the issues raised by the defendants’ cross-appeal were potentially dispositive; and (3) judicial economy would be served by considering both interlocutory orders simultaneously.

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