We all have heard stories of documents being filed late but this one takes the cake. This story is about an actual case where the plaintiff neglected to file its brief for 21 years.
The case is Rueth Development Co v. H & H Reuth Inc., filed in the Superior Court of Lake County, Indiana – Hammond Division, under cause number 45D01-9209-CP-01103. The complaint was filed in 1992 claiming defendant owed money for real estate and construction materials. In 1995, H & H moved for summary judgment on the basis that a settlement was imminent. But the settlement never occurred.
In July of 2016, Lake Superior Judge John Sedia ruled on summary judgment in favor of H & H, writing that it appeared from the court docket that plaintiff never replied to H & H’s summary judgment motion despite requesting and receiving an extension of time in which to do so. The request for extension was granted in 1995. Nevertheless, the court was compelled to rule in favor of the defendant.
In the order for summary judgment, Judge Sedia opens with an excerpt from the Charles Dickens novel, Bleak House. In that story, the Jarndyce family fights in the courts over a large inheritance. The case drags on for generations until the legal costs have consumed the worth of the entire estate, leaving no money for anyone.
In the Rueth case, some of the parties, lawyers, and a judge actually passed away leaving the case dormant for years. However, the case was revived by the court setting a status hearing in 2015, which allowed the parties to resume the argument over summary judgment.
I bet if the plaintiff’s counsel had a docket specialist, this would never have occurred.