Articles Posted in Indiana Supreme Court

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Buyers agreed to buy a condominium from Seller pursuant to a purchase agreement. Buyers demanded that Seller fix a minor electrical problem as a condition of purchase, which led to this protracted litigation. In the first appeal, the court of appeals concluded that Buyers breached the contract with their unreasonable demand and remanded for the trial court to determine damages. The trial court awarded Seller $93,972 in damages. Seller appealed, arguing that she reasonably mitigated her damages and that the trial court erred in calculating damages. Buyers cross-appealed. The court of appeals reversed and awarded only $117 in damages, concluding that Seller could have avoided all damages except a $117 repair bill if she had responded to Buyers’ demand to fix the electrical problem, thus preserving the agreement. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed the trial court, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion (1) by finding that Seller could have mitigated her damages by selling her condo in 2007 rather than waiting until 2011; and (2) in refusing to find that Seller’s duty to mitigate required yielding to the Buyers’ breach. View "Fischer v. Heymann" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a former independent commissioned sales representative for Mor/Ryde International, Inc., sued Mor/Ryde for unpaid commissions under a contract between the parties. One count of Plaintiff’s complaint alleged violations of the Indiana Sales Representative Act. The trial court concluded that the Sales Representative Act applied to Mor/Ryde’s contract with Plaintiff and ruled that exemplary damages under the Sales Representative Act are subject to statutory restrictions on awards of punitive damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Punitive Damages Act applies only to discretionary common-law punitive damages awards, not statutory damage awards like the Sales Representative Act; and (2) therefore, treble damages under the Sales Representative Act are not subject to the Punitive Damages Act. View "Andrews v. Mor/Ryde Int'l, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an Indiana resident, was driving a semi-tractor trailer on behalf of Werner Transportation, a Georgia company, when he was injured in West Virginia after another truck hit his rig. Werner insured the truck under a policy from Empire Fire and Marine Insurance Co., which provided $5 million liability coverage. Empire, however, claimed that the policy included only $75,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. Applying Georgia law, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Empire, finding there was sufficient evidence that Werner made the affirmative choice to purchase underinsured motorist coverage in a lower amount than the liability policy limit. The court of appeals determined that Indiana law applied but nonetheless affirmed the trial court, concluding the evidence was sufficient under Indiana law to establish that Werner had explicitly rejected the default $5 million coverage limit and instead purchased coverage only in the amount of $75,000. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the issue of whether Werner waived the higher liability limit for underinsured motorist insurance was “unsuitable for summary judgment and best left to the fact-finder.” View "Asklar v. Gilb" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs obtained a homeowners insurance policy from American Family Mutual Insurance Company. After Plaintiffs’ home sustained substantial fire damage, a dispute arose regarding the amount of insurance claim benefits payable under the policy. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a complaint against American Family and Michael Meek, the insurance agent through whom they obtained their insurance, for negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that Plaintiffs failed to commence the action within the applicable statute of limitations. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court was correct to grant summary judgment on the basis of the applicable two-year statute of limitations. View "Groce v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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An underinsured motorist collided with a city bus driven by Plaintiff. Plaintiff received a net workers’ compensation award of $71,958. Plaintiff also received $25,000 from the tortfeasor’s insurer. Plaintiff carried an underinsured (UM) policy issued by American Family Mutual Insurance Company that provided coverage up to $50,000 per person. Plaintiff submitted a UM claim to American Family, which denied coverage. Plaintiff filed a breach of contract action against American Family, asserting that he was entitled, under the terms of the policy, to $25,000 - the difference between his UM policy limit of $50,000 and the $25,000 he received from the tortfeasor’s insurer. The trial court granted summary judgment for American Family, concluding that the workers’ compensation benefits Plaintiff received operated as a setoff against the policy limit, thus reducing American Family’s liability to zero. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the policy language unambiguously provided for a setoff against the policy limit; but (2) because this particular set-off would reduce the policy limit below the statutory minimum, Plaintiff was entitled to recover the remaining $25,000 from American Family. View "Justice v. Am. Family Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) approved a contract for the purchase of substitute natural gas and directed the procedure for resolving future related disputes. The court of appeals reversed the IURC's approval of the contract because a definition term in the contract deviated from the required statutory definition. The parties to the contract subsequently amended the contract to delete the language that the court of appeals found improper. The Supreme Court vacated the reversal of the IURC's order, held that the amended contract that corrected the definitional error rendered the definitional issue moot, and summarily affirmed the court of appeals as to all other claims. View "Ind. Gas Co., Inc. v. Ind. Fin. Auth." on Justia Law

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After purchasing a car from Defendant, a car dealership, Plaintiff discovered that the car had extensive problems. Plaintiff sued Defendant, alleging that advertising the car as a "Sporty Car at a Great Value Price" violated the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act and that the salesperson's representation to her that the car would "just need a tune-up" was fraudulent. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court correctly found that Defendant's advertisement was classic puffery, which was fatal to Plaintiff's deception claims; but (2) Plaintiff established an issue of material fact as to her fraud claim based on the salesperson's statements. Remanded. View "Kesling v. Hubler Nissan, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mother and Father were married in 1992 and had two children. The parties later divorced. In 2009, Mother and Father agreed to recalculate their support obligation annually using the Child Support Rules and Guidelines. However, the agreement's terms were silent about which version of the Guidelines applied. Importantly, the Guidelines were amended in 2010, and the changes significantly increased support obligations for high-income parents like Father. Father used the 2009 Guidelines when calculating his 2010 distribution clause payment, and Mother objected. The trial court interpreted the agreement as incorporating the version of the Guidelines that applied to a particular's income, and therefore, concluded that Father should have used the 2010 Guidelines for the 2010 calculation, though he correctly applied the 2009 Guidelines to his 2009 income. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, concluding that the agreement incorporated each year's version of the Guidelines as to that year's income. View "Schwartz v. Heeter" on Justia Law

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Buyers bought a home from Sellers after Sellers completed Indiana's statutory disclosure forms attesting to the home's condition. Buyers subsequently discovered costly defects in the home. Buyers sued Sellers, alleging fraudulent misrepresentation. The trial court awarded damages to Plaintiffs. At issue on appeal was whether Indiana's disclosure statutes created a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation or if the common law still applied and the principle of caveat emptor precluded recovery on the action. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the legislature's adoption of the disclosure statutes abrogated the state's common law jurisprudence falling within their scope, and therefore, the disclosure statues create liability for sellers when they fail to truthfully disclose the condition of features of their property that must be disclosed to the buyer; and (2) the district court erred in finding that Sellers were liable to Buyers because the defects in the home "should have been obvious" to Sellers, as Sellers' "actual knowledge" of the defects was not established. Remanded. View "Johnson v. Wysocki" on Justia Law

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Vincennes Indiana Girls, Inc. (VIG) deeded Camp Wildwood to the predecessor of Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, Inc. (GSSI) on the condition that the property be used for scouting purposes for forty-nine years. The deed provided that ownership of the campground would revert to VIG if the scouting-use condition was breached during that time. After forty-four years, GSSI stopped using the camp as a Girl Scout facility and decided to sell. VIG sued to quiet title to Camp Wildwood and enjoin GSSI from selling the camp until the forty-nine-year period had expired. The trial court granted summary judgment quieting title in VIG. At issue on appeal was whether the forty-nine-year land use limitation was enforceable despite a subsequently enacted statute, Ind. Code 32-17-10-2, which purported to limit reversionary clauses in land transactions to a maximum of thirty years. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 32-17-10-2 was unconstitutional as applied retroactively to the land-use restriction in VIG's deed to GSSI. View "Girl Scouts of S. Ill. v. Vincennes Ind. Girls, Inc." on Justia Law