Rocca v. Rocca

Decision Date10 January 2002
Docket NumberNo. 82A05-0104-CV-163.,82A05-0104-CV-163.
Citation760 N.E.2d 677
PartiesKim A. ROCCA, Appellant-Petitioner, v. Donna G. ROCCA, Appellee-Respondent.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Bradley J. Salmon, Shawn M. Sullivan, Terrell, Baugh, Salmon & Born, LLP, Evansville, IN, Attorneys for Appellant.

Gary K. Price, Evansville, IN, Attorney for Appellee.

OPINION

DARDEN, Judge.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Kim Rocca ("Husband") appeals the trial court's order granting the petition of Donna Rocca ("Wife") to set aside its previous final order in the dissolution of the parties' marriage and ordering Husband to take certain action with respect to two parcels of real estate.

We affirm.

ISSUE
Whether the trial court abused its discretion in setting aside the property disposition provisions of the earlier order and ordering that Husband sell two parcels of real estate and provide certain proceeds therefrom to Wife.
FACTS

On November 24, 1993, Husband filed a petition for dissolution of his marriage to Wife. A contested final hearing was held on June 5, 1995, at the conclusion of which the trial court entered its dissolution order. In 1998, Husband's father passed away. Husband filed an affidavit dated February 26, 1999 with the probate court concerning two parcels of real estate. According to the affidavit: in 1976 Husband had purchased certain real estate on Shelby Avenue; he had placed the property in his father's name but paid all the expenses thereon; in 1994, his father had "approached" Husband "about formally transferring title" of the Shelby real estate to Husband, but "[b]ecause" Husband "was contemplating a divorce, title to the real estate was not transferred" to Husband at that time. (Husband's App. 58). Husband further averred that "because [he] was having marital problems" at the time he had bought certain real estate on Sweetser Avenue, for which he also had paid all of the expenses, Husband had "placed the name of [his father] on the title" to that property as well. (Husband's App. 58, 59). Finally, the affidavit stated that Husband and his father "ha[d] always treated" both parcels of real estate "as the real estate of [Husband]," and Husband's "funds were the only source of purchase price, maintenance and upkeep." Id.

On July 31, 2000, Wife filed a petition to set aside the dissolution order, citing Husband's recent affidavit and his 1995 exhibit at the dissolution hearing that did not disclose any interest in the Shelby or Sweetser real estate in his listing of marital property. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing, at which Husband conceded his "agreement" with his father "relating to these parcels of property" that whenever Husband "wanted them, [his father] would sign them over." (Tr. 40). Husband admitted he "came up with an agreement with [his] dad" because of marital problems, "the failing marriage." (Tr. 41, 43). The trial court also received a transcript from the dissolution hearing, wherein Husband denied ownership of the Shelby property—explaining that it was in his father's name. The transcript also contained Husband's testimony that in March of 1994, he loaned his father $3,500 to buy the Sweetser property, which was in his father's name.

The trial court found that Husband had committed "a fraud on the Court," citing Matter of Paternity of K.M., 651 N.E.2d 271 (Ind.Ct.App.1995), and that Wife had pursued the matter "within a reasonable time as that term is used in Trial Rule 60(B)." (Husband's App. 10). The trial court then granted Wife's petition to set aside the final judgment "pursuant to Trial Rule 60(B)," and ordered Husband to sell both parcels of real estate and give Wife certain proceeds therefrom. Id.

DECISION

On appeal of a trial court's order based on Indiana Trial Rule 60(B), our review "is limited to whether the trial court abused its discretion." Matter of Paternity of K.M., 651 N.E.2d 271, 274 (Ind.Ct.App.1995). "An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court's judgment is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and inferences supporting the judgment for relief." Id.

Husband first contends that the trial court was without authority to set aside the dissolution order and modify the property distribution therein. He notes that the trial court correctly found that at the time of the dissolution order, Ind.Code § 31-1-11.5-17 required that an action seeking modification of a property disposition based on fraud be brought "within two (2) years of said order," and that those two years had expired before the March 1998 effective date of the current, longer statutory limit.1 Husband then asserts that T.R. 60(B) does not allow the trial court to set aside the previously ordered property disposition contrary to the "clear, unambiguous restrictions set forth" by statute, because such "would render as absolutely meaningless the restrictions and limitations" therein. Husband's Brief at 13. According to Husband, "a litigant could always evade the time limits and restrictions set forth" in the statute and execute an "end run" to obtain relief. Id. at 14. We cannot agree with his exaggerated generalization. First, the statute expressly states that a property disposition order "may not be revoked, or modified, except in case of fraud." Ind.Code 31-15-7-9.1(a) (emphasis added). Moreover, as a matter of law, certain prerequisites must be met in order to obtain relief under T.R. 60(B) based upon fraud.

T.R. 60(B) allows one to seek relief from judgment within one year based on intrinsic fraud pursuant to T.R. 60(B)(3). Paternity of K.M., 651 N.E.2d at 277; see also Glover v. Torrence, 723 N.E.2d 924, 932 (Ind.Ct.App.2000). Intrinsic fraud involves matters which were presented to and considered by the trial court in its judgment, such as perjured testimony. Glover, 723 N.E.2d at 932. However, T.R. 60(B) also states that the Rule does not limit the court's power to consider a party's action seeking relief from judgment "for fraud upon the court." This "inherent equitable jurisdiction" of the court allows it "to grant relief from a judgment obtained by extrinsic fraud or fraud on the court." Glover, 723 N.E.2d at 932.

The trial court found that Husband had committed a fraud upon the court, defined in Paternity of K.M., 651 N.E.2d at 277, as the execution of "an unconscionable plan or scheme ... to improperly influence the court's decision" and which prevents the other party from having fully and fairly presented her case. Husband argues that Paternity of K.M. "is inapplicable in this case, because it did not involve modification of a divorce decree governing property disposition, but instead involved modification of a paternity decree," and public policy supports finality in the property disposition of a divorce decree. Husband's Brief at 13. We reject Husband's implicit premise that as a matter of public policy, finality in the disposition of marital assets is of greater import than finality in a determination of paternity.

Our discussion of "fraud on the court" in Paternity of K.M. relied on In re Paternity of Tompkins, 518 N.E.2d 500, 507 (Ind.Ct.App.1988), which described the "doctrine of `fraud on the court'" as "narrowly applied by the courts" and "limited to only the most egregious circumstances involving the courts." (citing 7 MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE ¶ 60.33). Thus, where "a party establishes that an unconscionable plan or scheme was used to improperly influence the court's decision, and that such acts prevented the losing party from fully and fairly presenting his case or defense, then `fraud on the court' exists." Tompkins, 518 N.E.2d at 507. To find "fraud on the court," the plan or scheme must have been represented "to the court" and have succeeded in influencing the court's decision. G.H. Skala Const. Co. v. NPW, Inc., 704 N.E.2d 1044, 1049 (Ind.Ct. App.1998), trans. denied.

According to Husband, his conduct can be characterized as nothing more than having given perjurious testimony, which is intrinsic fraud and required that Wife challenge the judgment within one year. We disagree. It is undisputed that Husband testified at the disposition hearing that he had no interest in either parcel of real estate, representations which he now concedes were false. Subsequently, Husband's affidavit averred that he and his father had actually entered into a plan or scheme whereby...

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7 cases
  • Outback Steakhouse of Florida v. Markley
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • November 8, 2006
    ...a showing that the fraud or misconduct prevented the movant from fully and fairly presenting the movant's case. See Rocca v. Rocca, 760 N.E.2d 677, 680 (Ind.Ct.App. 2002), trans. denied. We conclude that Outback was not significantly prejudiced by Alexander's concealment of McLaren's guilty......
  • Outback Steakhouse of Florida v. Markley
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • July 25, 2005
    ...fully and fairly presenting its case or defense, then fraud on the court exists and Rule 60(B) relief is available. Rocca v. Rocca, 760 N.E.2d 677, 680 (Ind.Ct.App.2002), trans. denied 783 N.E.2d 697 (Ind.2002). The standard of appellate review of trial court rulings on motions to correct e......
  • Axelrod v. Anthem, Inc.
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • April 13, 2021
    ...the fraud or misconduct prevented the movant from fully and fairly presenting the movant's case." Id. at 85 (citing Rocca v. Rocca , 760 N.E.2d 677, 680 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), trans. denied ). [42] The final requirement is the prima facie showing of a meritorious claim or defense. "This requ......
  • Jahangirizadeh v. Pazouki
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • March 19, 2015
    ...on the interplay between the statute and the rule.3 We note that a case upon which Jahangirizadeh heavily relies, Rocca v. Rocca, 760 N.E.2d 677 (Ind.Ct.App.2002), trans. denied, was decided before Stonger clarified Indiana law regarding motions to set aside a judgment for fraud and adopted......
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