The Indiana Court of Appeals encourages cooperation and conflict resolution among attorneys to resolve issues outside of court, but time extensions still require formal relief given directly by the court.
Mary Booher slipped and fell in a Hampton Inn bathtub. Her accident was the first in nearly 5 months after Hampton Inn had covered its bathtubs with a non-skid surface in compliance with safety standards. Mary and her husband filed suit. After receiving two time extensions to reply to Hampton Inn’s motion for summary judgment, another time extension was needed because the Boohers’ attorney was facing major surgery and their expert needed extra time to complete his report. The attorney contacted Hampton Inn’s counsel to explain that another extension would be needed. Hampton Inn’s counsel agreed to the extension, and relying on this out-of-court agreement, the attorney never filed a formal request with the trial court. Three weeks after the second extension deadline had passed, the Boohers submitted their reply to the trial court. Hampton Inn moved to strike based on Trial Rule 56, which the trial court granted. It later granted summary judgment in favor of Hampton Inn. The Boohers appealed.
In Mary Booher, et al. v. Sheeram, LLC, No. 20A03-1005-CT-338, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err in its decision to strike the Boohers’ reply and properly entered summary judgment in favor of Hampton Inn. Under Trial Rule 56, a trial court does not have the discretion to accept late-filed documents. The Court stated that the attorney’s reliance on the out-of-court agreement was not sufficient to extend the due date, and that he should have filed a motion for a time extension with the trial court. It stated that even under the extraordinarily difficult circumstances in this case, the court’s “proverbial hands were tied” as the Supreme Court made it clear that trial courts have no discretion to accept untimely filed documents. Additionally, because Hampton Inn applied a non-skid coating which complied with industry standards, it protected its business invitees from foreseeable dangers. Hampton Inn fulfilled its duty to exercise reasonable care, and therefore, there were no issues of material fact. Thus, the Court affirmed the trial court’s holding.