Harp v. Indiana Dept. of Highways, 41A04-9012-CV-570

Docket NºNo. 41A04-9012-CV-570
Citation585 N.E.2d 652
Case DateJanuary 23, 1992
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Page 652

585 N.E.2d 652
Kerry HARP, Harold Horn and James Armstrong, Appellants-Plaintiffs,
No. 41A04-9012-CV-570.
Court of Appeals of Indiana,
Fourth District.
Jan. 23, 1992.

Page 654

John F. Kautzman, Ruckelshaus Roland Hasbrook & O'Connor, Indianapolis, for appellants-plaintiffs.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., Kirk A. Knoll, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee-defendant.

CHEZEM, Judge.

Case Summary

Plaintiffs-appellants, Kerry Harp, Harold Horn, and James Armstrong (the Employees), appeal the trial court's dismissal with prejudice of their amended complaint for declaratory judgment against the Indiana Department of Highways. We reverse and remand.


The Employees present one issue for our review, which we restate as follows:

Was the dismissal with prejudice of the Employees' amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction contrary to law?

Facts and Procedural History

Harp, Horn, and Armstrong are employees of the Indiana Department of Highways (now the Indiana Department of Transportation) whose duties include maintenance and snow removal during their regularly scheduled work hours of 7:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. On several separate occasions during the winter of 1987, the Employees were called to work before the beginning of their regularly scheduled work hours, sometimes as early as midnight, to plow snow. To reduce overtime costs, the supervisor sent them home on each of these days after approximately eight hours of work, prohibiting them from also completing their regularly scheduled daily shift.

The Employees, desiring to work their regular shifts and receive overtime pay for any extra work, advanced through the Department's prescribed complaint procedure, culminating in an adverse final order issued on June 19, 1987, by the then Director of the Department, John P. Isenbarger.

On July 10, 1987, the Employees timely filed a verified petition for review of the Department's final order pursuant to the Administrative Adjudication Act (AAA), IND.CODE 4-22-1-1 et seq., recodified at IND.CODE 4-21.5-1-1 et seq., serving notice

Page 655

by certified mail to the Attorney General and Director Isenbarger. The petition claimed the order was arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law because it was contrary to IND.CODE 4-15-1.8-7(b)(6), Department policy 2-3, and established Department practice.

On July 28, 1987, the Department filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted pursuant to Ind.Rules of Procedure, Trial Rule 12(B)(1) and 12(B)(6). The Department claimed the Employees were "at will" employees, and as such, were not entitled to judicial review under the AAA, asserting as authority an unpublished memorandum decision, subsequently published as Indiana Department of Highways v. Dixon (1987), Ind.App., 512 N.E.2d 1113, and two years later vacated by the Indiana Supreme Court in Indiana Department of Highways v. Dixon (1989), Ind., 541 N.E.2d 877.

On December 15, 1989, the Employees filed a motion for leave to amend their petition for judicial review under Ind. Rules of Procedure, Trial Rule 15(A) and 15(C), asking to convert the action to one for declaratory judgment pursuant to the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, IND.CODE 34-4-10-1 to 16. The proposed amended complaint was attached to the motion and prayed for 1) a declaration of the rights of the Department and the Employees with respect to IC 4-15-1.8-7, the overtime scheduling statute, 2) a declaration that the Employees were unlawfully prohibited from working their regular shifts, 3) a judgment granting the Employees lost wages, and 4) all further relief the court deemed just and proper together with costs. The caption of the proposed complaint did not name the Director of the Department as a defendant.

The Department, relying on Wright v. Kinnard (1969), 144 Ind.App. 286, 245 N.E.2d 835, filed an objection to the motion for leave to amend on February 2, 1990. The Department contended the motion should be denied because it was filed nearly two and one-half years after filing the original petition and because the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter a declaratory judgment against the Department, a state entity, the only defendant named in the caption.

The court held a hearing on the motion to amend on February 2, 1990, in which it ordered the Employees to file a response to the Department's objection. On February 23, 1990, the Employees filed a Response to Objection to Motion for Leave to Amend, including answers to questions posed by the court and requesting to convert the original action to a declaratory judgment action, to substitute the new Director of the Department, Christine Letts, as the defendant, to add a second count for damages and injunctive relief based on the Department's violation of the Employees' rights under IC 4-15-1.8-7(b)(6), and to grant all other appropriate relief. On April 30, 1990, the court granted leave to amend.

On May 15, 1990, the Department filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint with prejudice pursuant to T.R. 12(B)(1), asserting the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction on two grounds: 1) a declaratory judgment cannot be entered against the Department, a state entity, 1 and 2) failure to name all the parties in the title of the complaint as required under T.R. 10(A). The Employees appeal the trial court's August 6, 1990, order granting the Department's motion to dismiss with prejudice.

Other facts will be included in the discussion as necessary.

Discussion and Decision

The question before us is whether the trial court properly dismissed the Employees' amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. To affirm the dismissal without a trial on the merits, we must decide from an examination of the face of the complaint whether the trial court could

Page 656

determine it did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case. Wright at 296, 245 N.E.2d at 841.

According to Indiana's well-settled standard, subject matter jurisdiction is the power of a court to hear and determine the general class of cases to which the proceedings before it belong. State ex rel. Hight v. Marion Superior Court (1989), Ind., 547 N.E.2d 267, 269; Matter of Adoption of H.S. (1985), Ind.App., 483 N.E.2d 777, 780; State ex rel. Young v. Noble Circuit Court (1975), 263 Ind. 353, 356, 332 N.E.2d 99, 101; State ex rel. Indianapolis v. Brennan (1952), 231 Ind. 492, 497, 109 N.E.2d 409, 411 (citing Rhode Island v. Massachusetts (1838), 37 U.S. (12 Pet.) 657, 717, 9 L.Ed. 1233). "The only relevant inquiry in determining whether the court has subject matter jurisdiction is to ask whether th[e] kind of claim the plaintiff advances falls within the general scope of authority conferred upon such court by the constitution or statute." State ex rel. Young, at 356, 332 N.E.2d at 101 (citing Brown v. State (1941), 219 Ind. 251, 37 N.E.2d 73); see also Williams v. Williams (1990), Ind., 555 N.E.2d 142, 144-45; Behme v. Behme (1988), Ind.App., 519 N.E.2d 578, 582.


Statutory authority to enter declaratory judgments is directly granted to Indiana's courts of general jurisdiction by the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act: 2

Courts of record within their respective jurisdictions shall have power to declare rights, status, and other legal relations whether or not further relief is or could be claimed. No action or proceeding shall be open to objection on the ground that a declaratory judgment or decree is prayed for.

IND.CODE 34-4-10-1. The Johnson Circuit Court is a court of general jurisdiction, See IND.CODE 33-4-2-1 et seq.; State ex rel. Young, at 358, 332 N.E.2d at 101, n. 2 (citing 1 B. Gavit, Ind. Pleading and Practice 742 (2d ed. 1950)); see also Wabash R. Co. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n (1953), 232 Ind. 277, 285, 112 N.E.2d 292, 295 (circuit courts are generally speaking courts of general original jurisdiction) (Bobbitt, J., dissenting) (citing Burns' 1946 Repl., Sec. 4-303). The trial court therefore has, within the general scope of authority conferred by IC 34-4-10-1, the power to enter declaratory judgments. See Brendanwood Neighborhood Ass'n v. Common Council of Lebanon (1975), 167 Ind.App. 253, 255, 338 N.E.2d 695, 696 (citing IND. CONST. art. 7, Sec. 8; IND.CODE 33-4-4-3 (BURNS' CODE Ed.)). Consequently, the Johnson Circuit Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the general class of cases involving declaratory judgments.

The caption of the Employees' "AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT" reads, "KERRY HARP, HAROLD HORN, and JAMES ARMSTRONG, Plaintiffs vs. INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF HIGHWAYS, Defendant." 3 The Department contends the court's exercise of subject matter jurisdiction is barred because the state in its sovereign capacity, rather than the Director of the Department in her official capacity, is named in the caption. The Department cites in support of its contention T.R. 10(A), which requires all parties to an action to be named in the caption, and Wright, at 299, 245 N.E.2d at 842, which held a declaratory

Page 657

judgment may be entered against the state's officers and agents but cannot be entered against the state in its sovereign capacity.

Both the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act and T.R. 10(A) require all persons with a claim or interest that would be affected to be named as parties in the complaint. The Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act provides in relevant part:

When declaratory relief is sought, all persons shall be made parties who have or claim any interest which would be affected by the declaration, and no declaration shall prejudice the rights of persons not parties to the proceeding.

IC 34-4-10-11 (emphasis added). The Indiana Trial Rules state, "the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties." T.R. 10(A) (emphasis...

To continue reading

Request your trial
53 cases
  • Bleeke v. Lemmon, 02S05–1305–PL–364.
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • April 16, 2014
    ...Trial Rule 25(F). And we agree that the State may not be named as a party-defendant to this action, see Harp v. Ind. Dep't of Highways, 585 N.E.2d 652, 660 (Ind.Ct.App.1992), but we summarily affirm the Court of Appeals with respect to the Parole Board's waiver claim, Ind. Appellate Rule 58......
  • U.S. v. Clark County, Indiana, NA 99-230-C-B/H.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • December 17, 2002
    ...jurisdiction of the particular case." Browning v. Walters, 620 N.E.2d 28, 31 (Ind.Ct.App.1993) (citing Harp v. Indiana Dept. of Highways, 585 N.E.2d 652, 659 (Ind.Ct.App.1992)). When the Tax Court dismissed ICI's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, its action reflected the fact that ICI had fa......
  • UACC Midwest, Inc. v. Indiana Dept. of State Revenue, 49T10-9204-TA-00012
    • United States
    • Indiana Tax Court of Indiana
    • March 2, 1994
    ...the court has constitutional or statutory authority to hear and decide a claim. Harp v. Indiana Dep't of Highways (1992), Ind.App., 585 N.E.2d 652, 656 (quoting State ex. rel. Young v. Noble Circuit Court (1975), 263 Ind. 353, 356, 332 N.E.2d 99, 2 While there is a genuine issue as to the a......
  • Perry v. Stitzer Buick GMC, Inc., 41S01-9406-CV-567
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • June 23, 1994
    ...under Trial Rule 12(B)(1) is not an adjudication on the merits nor is it res judicata. Harp v. Dep't of Highways (1992), Ind.App., 585 N.E.2d 652. A plaintiff thus is free to refile the action in the same tribunal or another tribunal that has jurisdiction. See Mid-States Aircraft Engines, 4......
  • 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