Allstate Ins. Co. v. Watson, No. 24S01-0009-CV-00535.

Docket NºNo. 24S01-0009-CV-00535.
Citation747 N.E.2d 545
Case DateMay 22, 2001
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

747 N.E.2d 545

ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant, and
Marla Ramsey, Non-Appealing Defendant,
v.
Kenneth R. WATSON and Virginia Watson, Plaintiffs-Appellees

No. 24S01-0009-CV-00535.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

May 22, 2001.


747 N.E.2d 546
Jeff Mitchell, Yarling & Robinson, Indianapolis, IN, Attorney for Appellant

Melvin F. Wilhelm, Brookville, Indiana, Attorney for Appellee.

On Petition To Transfer

DICKSON, Justice.

This is an appeal from the trial court's denial of a motion for relief from default judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's order in an unpublished memorandum decision. We grant transfer, reverse the trial court's decision, and hold that a default judgment must be set aside under Indiana Trial Rule 60(B)(3) where, during negotiations, the plaintiff's attorney disregarded a prior assurance to the defendant and obtained a default judgment.

On December 20, 1995, the plaintiffs-appellees, Kenneth and Virginia Watson, filed a complaint that, in addition to other claims, sought judgment against defendant-appellant Allstate Insurance Company for underinsured motorists coverage applicable to the plaintiffs' injuries and losses from an automobile collision on December 25, 1993. Less than three months later, a letter from the Watsons' attorney to the Allstate claims supervisor stated, in part: "while negotiations are still proceeding, I will in no way attempt a default judgment. Should negotiations break down, I will give you adequate time to have your counsel respond to the complaint." Record at 25. Negotiations continued for several years. In a letter to Allstate dated February 4, 1999, Watsons' lawyer stated, in relevant part:

I am sorry that we cannot reach an amicable resolution to this matter as of this date.

....

You indicated to me that ... you were not inclined to make a substantial increase in your current offer. With that in mind, it appears that we have reached an impasse and I would ask that you file an answer to our Complaint so that we can proceed to have this matter resolved through the Courts.

....

747 N.E.2d 547
... [W]e are willing to settle and do hereby offer to settle this case for the sum of $100,000.00....

....

... I will make an attempt to obtain the earliest possible trial date to get this matter resolved. I understand that your counsel will need some [sic] for discovery and other matters, such as having Mr. Watson examined by a doctor of your choice.... I must set a time limit on this Offer of Settlement. This offer will remain open until March 31, 1999, at which time it will be withdrawn.

Record at 26-28. The Watsons filed their motion for default judgment on March 18, 1999, and it was granted the next day. When counsel for Allstate entered his appearance on March 26, he discovered the default judgment. On May 14 he filed Allstate's answer, request for jury trial, and motion for relief from default judgment pursuant to Ind.Trial Rule 60(B)(1), (3), and (8). The trial court denied the motion.

Upon appellate review of a refusal to set aside a default judgment, the trial court's ruling is entitled to deference and will be reviewed for abuse of discretion. Smith v. Johnston, 711 N.E.2d 1259, 1262 (Ind.1999). The trial court should use its discretion to do what is "just" in light of the unique facts of each case. In re Marriage of Ransom, 531 N.E.2d 1171, 1172 (Ind.1988). However, such discretion should be exercised in light of the disfavor in which default judgments are held. Id. "[A] default judgment is not generally favored, and any doubt of its propriety must be...

To continue reading

Request your trial
32 practice notes
  • Outback Steakhouse of Florida v. Markley, No. 18S04-0602-CV-66.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 8 Noviembre 2006
    ...Professional Responsibility, even if the conduct at issue does not violate the rules of civil procedure. See Allstate Ins. Co. v. Watson, 747 N.E.2d 545, 548 (Ind.2001); Smith v. Johnston, 711 N.E.2d 1259, 1264 (Ind.1999). Federal authority interpreting FRCP 60(b)(3) clearly establishes tha......
  • Logansport/Cass Cnty. Airport Auth. v. Kochenower, Court of Appeals Case No. 20A-PL-2143
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 3 Mayo 2021
    ...fails to defend or prosecute a suit. It is not a trap to be set by counsel to catch unsuspecting litigants. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Watson , 747 N.E.2d 545, 547 (Ind. 2001) (emphasis added; internal quotation marks and citations omitted).[12] On appeal, the Airport Authority contends that the ......
  • Seleme v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, Nat'l Ass'n, No. 02A03–1205–MF–234.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 24 Enero 2013
    ...judgment, the trial court's ruling is entitled to deference and will be reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Watson, 747 N.E.2d 545, 547 (Ind.2001). The trial court's discretion should be exercised in light of the disfavor in which default judgments are generally held. ......
  • PT Barnum's Nightclub v. Duhamell, No. 49A02-0107-CV-481.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 23 Abril 2002
    ...subject to censure." Kizer, 369 N.E.2d at 443. Recently, however, our supreme court decided the case of Allstate Ins. Co. v. Watson, 747 N.E.2d 545 (Ind.2001). In that case, the court addressed the issue of the trial court's denial of a motion for relief from default judgment. The court hel......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
32 cases
  • Outback Steakhouse of Florida v. Markley, No. 18S04-0602-CV-66.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 8 Noviembre 2006
    ...Professional Responsibility, even if the conduct at issue does not violate the rules of civil procedure. See Allstate Ins. Co. v. Watson, 747 N.E.2d 545, 548 (Ind.2001); Smith v. Johnston, 711 N.E.2d 1259, 1264 (Ind.1999). Federal authority interpreting FRCP 60(b)(3) clearly establishes tha......
  • Logansport/Cass Cnty. Airport Auth. v. Kochenower, Court of Appeals Case No. 20A-PL-2143
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 3 Mayo 2021
    ...fails to defend or prosecute a suit. It is not a trap to be set by counsel to catch unsuspecting litigants. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Watson , 747 N.E.2d 545, 547 (Ind. 2001) (emphasis added; internal quotation marks and citations omitted).[12] On appeal, the Airport Authority contends that the ......
  • Seleme v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, Nat'l Ass'n, No. 02A03–1205–MF–234.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 24 Enero 2013
    ...judgment, the trial court's ruling is entitled to deference and will be reviewed for an abuse of discretion. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Watson, 747 N.E.2d 545, 547 (Ind.2001). The trial court's discretion should be exercised in light of the disfavor in which default judgments are generally held. ......
  • PT Barnum's Nightclub v. Duhamell, No. 49A02-0107-CV-481.
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 23 Abril 2002
    ...subject to censure." Kizer, 369 N.E.2d at 443. Recently, however, our supreme court decided the case of Allstate Ins. Co. v. Watson, 747 N.E.2d 545 (Ind.2001). In that case, the court addressed the issue of the trial court's denial of a motion for relief from default judgment. The court hel......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT