Rosi v. Business Furniture Corp.

Decision Date18 June 1993
Docket NumberNo. 30S05-9306-CV-671,30S05-9306-CV-671
Citation615 N.E.2d 431
PartiesRichard A. ROSI, Appellant (Plaintiff Below), v. BUSINESS FURNITURE CORPORATION, Appellee (Defendant Below).
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

Frank B. Harshey, Indianapolis, for appellant.

David E. Wright, Robert C. Wolf, David R. Day, Johnson, Smith, Densborn, Wright & Heath, Indianapolis, for appellee.

SHEPARD, Chief Justice.

This case illustrates the operation of our 1991 amendments to Indiana Trial Rule 56. In moving for summary judgment, both parties were obliged to designate the evidentiary matter upon which their legal contentions rested. On the basis of the material so designated, the trial court properly granted summary judgment for the defendant.

Facts and Procedural History

Richard A. Rosi was employed by Business Furniture Corporation (BFC) as manager of its carpet and floor covering department until October 1987, when he was terminated after his department was eliminated. Rosi later sued BFC for commissions he claimed were owed him. Count I of Rosi's complaint alleged that BFC committed fraud in misrepresenting the compensation to which he was entitled for certain years of his employment. Count II alleged that BFC violated Ind.Code Ann. Sec. 22-2-5-1 (West 1991) when it refused to pay him compensation for jobs which were completed after his termination. Rosi alleged that he and BFC had entered into a contract whereby he would be paid a 26% commission on the adjusted gross profit of his department's sales. He further alleged that an interoffice document, entitled "Personnel Action Request" (PAR), contained the parties' agreement.

Rosi and BFC each moved for summary judgment. BFC's motion asserted: (1) that no agreement between Rosi and BFC existed which provided for compensating Rosi for 1987 on the basis of jobs which were completed after his termination; (2) that Rosi provided no evidence of fraud to support Count I; and (3) that the PAR was not a contract, and Rosi alleged no other agreement which could provide a basis for his compensation claim.

The trial court granted BFC's motion for summary judgment and denied Rosi's motion. As to Count II of Rosi's complaint, it determined as a matter of law that the PAR was not an enforceable written contract. Rather, the court concluded, the PAR was merely an interoffice document created for the company accounting department. Moreover, the court held, the PAR was too vague and indefinite to apprise parties of all essential terms of employment. Noting that Rosi's complaint, deposition, and contentions based his contract claim exclusively on the PAR, the court concluded that the evidence did not establish a contract right to unpaid compensation. 1 The court also dismissed with prejudice Rosi's fraud claim (Count I) in his first amended complaint, and later dismissed without prejudice a different fraud claim in his second amended complaint. On appeal, Rosi has not challenged the dismissals of Count I.

Rosi moved the trial court to reconsider its ruling. He argued that his action was not limited solely to a written contract theory and that the evidence showed an oral contract between the parties. BFC contended in response that Rosi had not designated any evidence for the court which would show that he was attempting to defeat BFC's motion on the basis of an oral contract. As a result, BFC argued, Trial Rule 56(H) bars Rosi from obtaining reversal of the summary judgment order on oral contract grounds.

The trial court denied Rosi's motion to reconsider. On appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment. Rosi v. Business Furniture Corp. (1992), Ind.App., 601 N.E.2d 408, reh'g denied.

Revisions to T.R. 56

We grant transfer and affirm the decision of the trial court because the evidence Rosi designated in his response to BFC's summary judgment motion neither demonstrated a genuine issue of material fact nor provided any evidence proving a contractual entitlement to compensation. We agree with Judge Hoffman's dissenting opinion, and commend in particular his focus on the "designated evidentiary matter" requirement of Trial Rule 56(C). Rosi, 601 N.E.2d at 411 (Hoffman, J., dissenting).

Effective January 1991, we modified the summary judgment process through amendments to T.R. 56. No longer can parties rely without specificity on the entire assembled record--depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions--to fend off or support motions for summary judgment. It is not within a trial court's duties to search the record to construct a claim or defense for a party. Babinchak v. Town of Chesterton (1992), Ind.App., 598 N.E.2d 1099, 1101 ("It is clear from ... amended [T.R. 56] that a court may not search the record when making a decision about [a] motion" for summary judgment.).

To promote the expeditious resolution of lawsuits and conserve judicial resources, T.R. 56(C) now requires each party to a summary judgment motion to "designate to the court all parts of pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, matters of judicial notice, and any other matters on which it relies for purposes of the motion." 2 In addition, the opposing party must designate to the trial court "each material issue of fact which that party asserts precludes entry of summary judgment and the evidence relevant thereto." T.R. 56(C). The trial court must enter summary judgment if the "designated evidentiary matter shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Id. (emphasis added).

Our 1991 amendments also prohibit appellate courts from reversing summary judgment orders on the ground that there is a genuine issue of material fact unless the material facts and relevant evidence were specifically designated to the trial court. T.R. 56(H). In applying this new standard of review, Judge Miller has observed that "T.R. 56(H) was specifically added to further impress upon us, as the reviewing court, the need for the parties to strictly comply" with the designated evidentiary matter requirement of amended T.R. 56(C). Jackson v. Blanchard (1992), Ind.App., 601 N.E.2d 411, 415.

On appeal, a trial court's grant of summary judgment is "clothed with a presumption of validity." Caylor-Nickel Clinic, 587 N.E.2d at 1312-13. The appellant bears the burden of proving that the trial court erred in determining that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

Evidence Designated by BFC and Rosi

The portions of the record which Rosi specifically designated to the trial court on BFC's summary judgment motion neither create a genuine issue of material fact nor negate the contention that BFC was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In his response to BFC's motion for summary judgment, Rosi designated: (1) Rosi's deposition testimony that he believes the PAR entitles him to compensation for anticipated but not yet realized gross profit and his admission that no other written or oral agreement provides for such compensation; (2) the deposition testimony of John Ober, BFC's owner, that Rosi's predecessor was entitled to sales he had booked but not completed before leaving the company, and that Rosi and his predecessor had agreed that Rosi would complete and receive 100% of the commission from those sales; (3) Ober's testimony that Rosi was to continue on his predecessor's compensation scale, as laid out...

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