Gaff v. Indiana-Purdue University of Fort Wayne, No. 02S03-1604-PL-201, __ N.E.3d __ (Ind., April 22, 2016).

Dickson, J.

The plaintiff, Adam Gaff, appeals from the grant of summary judgment sought by his former employer, defendant Indiana-Purdue University of Fort Wayne (IPFW), in this employment termination discrimination case. We grant transfer to clarify the application of Indiana summary judgment jurisprudence to such cases.

As consolidated by the Court of Appeals, the plaintiff’s appeal presents claims alleging that the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment as to the plaintiff’s federal and state constitutional claims and as to the plaintiff’s retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). Gaff v. Indiana-Purdue Univ. of Fort Wayne, 45 N.E.3d 458, 460 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015). With respect to the federal and state constitutional claims, we summarily affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.

In affirming the summary judgment on the retaliation claim, however, the Court of Appeals noted language from Indiana Civil Rights Commission v. Culver Educational Foundation, wherein we stated that “the ultimate burden of persuasion that the defendant engaged in unlawful discrimination remains at all times with the plaintiff.” 535 N.E.2d 112, 115 (Ind. 1989). The Court of Appeals in Gaff acknowledged that “IPFW is the party who moved for summary judgment,” but nevertheless applied Culver Educational—which was not a summary judgment case1—to hold that “the initial burden is still on Gaff to prove a prima facie case of retaliation.” Gaff, 45 N.E.3d at 465. The Court of Appeals ventured that “Indiana’s ‘heightened’ summary judgment standard, discussed in Hughley v. State, 15 N.E.2d 1000, 1003 (Ind. 2014), under which the moving party must negate an opponent’s claim, does not apply to a Title VII claim.” Gaff, 45 N.E.3d at 465 n.9. We disagree.

As we recently emphasized in Hughley, “[e]ven though Indiana Trial Rule 56 is nearly identical to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, we have long recognized that Indiana’s summary judgment procedure . . . diverges from federal summary judgment practice. In particular, while federal practice permits the moving party to merely show that the party carrying the burden of proof lacks evidence on a necessary element, we impose a more onerous burden: to affirmatively negate an opponent’s claim.” 15 N.E.3d at 1003 (emphasis in original) (internal quotations and citations omitted)….

In reaching a final judgment where a plaintiff is asserting in Indiana trial courts a federal statutory cause of action, the elements to be proven and the standard of proof required are determined by federal law. See James v. City of Boise, 577 U.S. —, 136 S.Ct. 685, 686, 193 L.Ed.2d 694 (2016) (per curiam) (“It is this Court’s responsibility to say what a [federal] statute means, and once the Court has spoken, it is the duty of other courts to respect that understanding of the governing rule of law.”); Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. —, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1067, 185 L.Ed.2d 72 (2013) (“State courts adjudicating civil RICO claims will . . . be guided by federal court interpretations of the relevant federal criminal statutes, just as federal courts sitting in diversity are guided by state court interpretations of state law.”). But the state court proceedings in which such a claim is pursued are governed by the procedural law of the forum, in this case Indiana procedural law. Cf. Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78, 58 S.Ct. 817, 822, 82 L.Ed. 1188, 1194 (1938) (holding that courts apply the procedural law of the forum and the substantive law of the jurisdiction originating the claim); Brill v. Regent Commc’ns., Inc., 12 N.E.3d 299, 306 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014) (Indiana adheres to “lex fori (law of the forum) concerning procedural issues.”) trans. denied; JKL Components Corp. v. Insul-Reps, Inc., 596 N.E.2d 945, 950 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992) (“[T]he procedural law of the forum state applies to procedural issues.”) trans. denied. Thus, while the plaintiff’s cause of action arises under federal law, summary judgment proceedings arising under Indiana Trial Rule 56 are governed by Indiana summary judgment procedure and jurisprudence.


…In light of the parties’ Agreed Statement of Material Facts, the defendant has satisfied its burden on summary judgment to affirmatively negate the plaintiff’s claim. And the plaintiff has not come forward with contrary evidence showing a genuine issue of material fact for the trier of fact.

We affirm the grant of summary judgment as to the plaintiff’s retaliation claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and we summarily affirm the Court of Appeals as to all other issues. This cause is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Rush, C.J., and Rucker, David, and Massa, JJ., concur.


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