Tenant not given sufficient opportunity to present defense

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SHEPARD, Chief Justice.
The informality of litigating in small claims court promotes doing substantial justice in a relatively efficient way, conferring benefits on plaintiffs and defendants alike. In this case, the court effectively declined to hear evidence on a tenant’s affirmative defenses to eviction and ordered immediate possession for the landlord. The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that Morton was given a sufficient opportunity to present a defense and his Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights were not violated.


Conclusion
(slip op. at 8):  We conclude that the tenant was not given a sufficient opportunity to present a defense, and therefore reverse the small claims court’s judgment.


Key Analysis
(slip op. at 7):  Morton attempted to provide the court with testimony and a notarized affidavit or other documentation, and he was denied. This was inconsistent with due process and the framework set out in Ind. Code § 32-30-3-2(b) . . . Even taking account for the informality of the small claims process, Morton was not given an adequate opportunity to say yes or no to any of Ivacic‟s allegations at the prejudgment hearing.

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