Waterfield v. Waterfield, No. 92A03–1511–PL–1968.

Docket NºNo. 92A03–1511–PL–1968.
Citation61 N.E.3d 314
Case DateSeptember 09, 2016
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

61 N.E.3d 314

Julie R. WATERFIELD, Appellant–Plaintiff/Counter Defendant,
v.
Richard D. WATERFIELD, Appellee–Defendant/Counter–Plaintiff.

No. 92A03–1511–PL–1968.

Court of Appeals of Indiana.

Sept. 9, 2016.


61 N.E.3d 319

Eric E. Snouffer, Snouffer & Snouffer, Fort Wayne, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Larry A. Mackey, Mark J. Crandley, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana, Daniel Sigler, Sigler Law LLC, Fort Wayne, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

RILEY, Judge.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

1] Appellant–Plaintiff/Counter–Defendant, Julie R. Waterfield (Julie), appeals the trial court's order denying her request to set aside the divorce decree entered in 1997 based on the allegation of fraud committed by Appellee–Defendant/Counter–Plaintiff, Richard D. Waterfield (Richard), while negotiating a settlement leading to the dissolution of the marriage.1

[2] We affirm.

ISSUES

[3] Julie raises seven issues on appeal, which we consolidate and restate as the following four issues:

(1) Whether the trial court properly denied Julie's attempt to set aside the Settlement Agreement she entered into based on fraud;

(2) Whether the trial court erred when it denied Julie's motion for summary judgment on Richard's counterclaim for abuse of process;

(3) Whether the trial court properly sanctioned Julie for violating her court-ordered discovery obligations; and

(4) Whether the trial court properly granted Richard an award of attorney fees.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

[4] Julie and Richard were married in 1968. After 29 years of marriage, Julie filed for a decree of dissolution on May 19, 1997. On August 25, 1997, without taking any discovery, Julie commenced settlement negotiations with an opening offer of $25 million in cash, unstructured. Meanwhile, Richard had provided Julie with an informal preliminary spreadsheet (the Disclosure Statement), enumerating the property that Richard assumed to be part of the marital estate. A final version of the Disclosure Statement was served on Julie on September 22, 1997. On October 9, 1997, and upon the expiration of her offer to settle, Julie served an initial discovery request on Richard, seeking information about the assets in the marital estate and their corresponding value. While Julie's counsel served the discovery, the parties continued their settlement discussions. Simultaneously with seeking a settlement, Julie's counsel advised Julie not to settle without conducting detailed discovery into the marital estate. On three separate occasions, Julie's counsel warned her that “based upon what [Richard] has condescended to disclose to us, it is clear that you want to agree to substantially less than what the [c]ourt would grant you.” (Appellant's App. p. 568).

[5] Despite her attorney's warnings and cautions, Julie chose to settle the dissolution

[61 N.E.3d 320

and entered into a settlement agreement (Settlement Agreement), in which Richard agreed to provide Julie $20 million in assets, consisting of $19,477,000 in cash and a lake cottage on Clear Lake, near Fremont, Indiana. The divorce decree was entered on December 22, 1997, and incorporated the Disclosure Statement and the Settlement Agreement. The Settlement Agreement provided that “[t]he parties agree that the value and components of the [m]arital [e]state have previously been discussed by them. The parties further agree that they have had the opportunity to confer with separate counsel regarding the value and components of the [m]arital [e]state, and the agreed-upon division of the [m]arital [e]state.” (Appellant's App. p. 182). A handwritten annotation to this paragraph further elaborates that “[Richard] represents that he has disclosed to [Julie] his material assets (including property owned jointly with [Julie] ) that he owned on 5–19–97 and his material liabilities on such date.” (Appellant's App. p. 182). On January 28, 1998, roughly a month after the dissolution, Julie consulted with her attorney and expressed her regret to have entered into the Settlement Agreement without full disclosure or discovery.

6] On July 12, 2003, almost six years after the dissolution of her marriage, Julie filed a Complaint, asserting that the Disclosure Statement provided by Richard had undervalued assets in the marital estate and failed to identify and include others. In her Complaint, she sought to set aside the Settlement Agreement and dissolution of marriage decree, essentially claiming that Richard had committed fraud to the value of $80 million. On March 1, 2004, Richard filed a counterclaim for abuse of process and for statutory attorney fees. On July 8, 2005, Richard moved for partial summary judgment on whether Julie could assert a fraud claim based on Richard's alleged misstatement on the value of the marital assets. On March 16, 2006, the trial court granted the motion for partial summary judgment as to all of Julie's claims based on the valuation of assets. In its order, the trial court found, in part, as follows:
Valuation is an issue of opinion that must be developed as part of a litigant's case and can be subject to contrary arguments during a lawsuit. The undisputed facts show that [Julie] did not use the tools of discovery, did not retain experts or have the marital assets valued for herself. Instead she settled the dissolution proceeding without exploring what the value of the marital assets were or developing her own case as to the value of those assets.

(Appellant's App. p. 54).

[7] During these proceedings, Julie made multiple allegations regarding her knowledge of the marital assets and their corresponding values in settling her divorce. Specifically, she alleged that Richard had deprived her of all assets and liabilities of the parties' marital estate, maintaining exclusive control thereof, as well as being dependent on Richard's representations. To defend against these claims, Richard sought access to the entire file of Julie's divorce counsel. Julie objected based on privilege grounds. After protracted litigation, the trial court ultimately found a partial waiver of the privilege and allowed Richard to access seven documents from Julie's divorce attorney's file. On March 31, 2009, Richard filed his motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Richard on all of Julie's claims.

[8] On December 3, 2012, Julie moved for summary judgment on Richard's counterclaim for abuse of process and for statutory

[61 N.E.3d 321

attorney fees, which was subsequently denied by the trial court on October 2, 2013. On February 28, 2014, Julie requested certain documents from Richard related to his claim for attorney fees. In turn, on June 17, 2014, Richard served Julie with a discovery request, seeking information as to when Julie's attorney reviewed the file of her divorce counsel, as well as the fees and rates charged by Julie's lawyer. When Julie objected to the discovery, Richard moved to compel Julie's response on September 25, 2014, which was granted by the trial court on October 24, 2014. The trial court ordered Julie to provide responses to Richard's discovery within ten days, or by November 3, 2014. On that day, Julie served discovery responses, reiterating that she continued her objections to much of the discovery. Three days later, on November 6, 2014, Julie sought reconsideration of the discovery order, which was subsequently denied on November 26, 2014.

9] On November 10, 2014, Richard moved for a default judgment as a discovery sanction due to Julie's non-production of the requested discovery and failure to diligently litigate the case. Nine days later, Julie filed her response to Richard's motion for sanctions, again repeating the objections already rejected by the trial court and asserting:
She is not in a position to contest the reasonableness of [Richard's] attorney fees. That is not to say that [Julie] is admitting that fees are owed in any way or that the disclosed fees are admissible at trial. Only that [Julie] is not in a position to dispute the reasonableness of the disclosed fees during a trial in this matter.

(Appellant's App. p. 1800).

[10] On December 2, 2014, the trial court heard argument on the motion for sanctions, including the sanction of default. Despite the November 3, 2014 deadline, Julie still had not complied with the order compelling responses to the counterclaim discovery at the time of the hearing. Thus, Richard expressly asked the trial court to grant the requested relief of a default judgment against Julie. At the close of the evidence, the trial court took Richard's request under advisement.

[11] Two days after the hearing, on December 4, 2014, Julie's attorney commenced to compile documents responsive to Richard's counterclaim discovery request. On December 29, 2014, Richard filed a notice with the trial court, notifying it of the status on the outstanding discovery requests. At that point, Richard had still not received complete discovery requests. On January 5, 2015, Richard again filed an updated notice regarding Julie's discovery responses with the trial court. The notice indicated that although Julie had provided some additional documents, she remained in noncompliance in many respects.

[12] On January 14, 2015, the trial court entered a default judgment as a discovery sanction against Julie. The trial court found that Julie had engaged in a “repetitive pattern” of disregarding the trial court's discovery orders and her discovery...

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17 practice notes
  • Howard v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 18A-CR-1830
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • April 30, 2019
    ...is "clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before it or is contrary to law." Waterfield v. Waterfield , 61 N.E.3d 314, 323 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016), trans. denied . But, insofar as Howard's argument on appeal is that the amendment to the charging information violate......
  • Hall v. Shaw, Court of Appeals Case No. 19A-CT-2533
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 21, 2020
    ...show a misuse or misapplication of process for an end other than that which it was designed to accomplish." Waterfield v. Waterfield , 61 N.E.3d 314, 328 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016), trans. denied . "The two elements of abuse of process are: (1) ulterior purpose or motives; and (2) a willful use o......
  • Ziebell v. Superintendent, CAUSE NO. 3:12-CV-774-MGG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • May 24, 2021
    ...resulted in the waiver of attorney-client privilege, which may have had additional prejudicial effects. See Waterfield v. Waterfield, 61 N.E.3d 314, 325 (Ind. App. 2016) (implied waiver by making privileged matter relevant to the case). Advising Ziebell to waive his right against self-incri......
  • Lekens v. Swifty Farms, Inc., 4:20-cv-00228-SEB-DML
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • August 4, 2021
    ...purpose or motives; and (2) a willful use of process not proper in the regular conduct of the proceedings. Waterfield v. Waterfield, 61 N.E.3d 314, 328 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016). Indiana courts have identified "[t]he gravamen of [abuse of process] as not the wrongfulness of the prosecution, but so......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • Howard v. State, Court of Appeals Case No. 18A-CR-1830
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • April 30, 2019
    ...is "clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before it or is contrary to law." Waterfield v. Waterfield , 61 N.E.3d 314, 323 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016), trans. denied . But, insofar as Howard's argument on appeal is that the amendment to the charging information violate......
  • Hall v. Shaw, Court of Appeals Case No. 19A-CT-2533
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • May 21, 2020
    ...show a misuse or misapplication of process for an end other than that which it was designed to accomplish." Waterfield v. Waterfield , 61 N.E.3d 314, 328 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016), trans. denied . "The two elements of abuse of process are: (1) ulterior purpose or motives; and (2) a willful use o......
  • Ziebell v. Superintendent, CAUSE NO. 3:12-CV-774-MGG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • May 24, 2021
    ...resulted in the waiver of attorney-client privilege, which may have had additional prejudicial effects. See Waterfield v. Waterfield, 61 N.E.3d 314, 325 (Ind. App. 2016) (implied waiver by making privileged matter relevant to the case). Advising Ziebell to waive his right against self-incri......
  • Lekens v. Swifty Farms, Inc., 4:20-cv-00228-SEB-DML
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • August 4, 2021
    ...purpose or motives; and (2) a willful use of process not proper in the regular conduct of the proceedings. Waterfield v. Waterfield, 61 N.E.3d 314, 328 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016). Indiana courts have identified "[t]he gravamen of [abuse of process] as not the wrongfulness of the prosecution, but so......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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