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Actual notice denies bona fide purchaser defense

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The Indiana Court of Appeals today reversed an interlocutory order and remanded for the trial court to grant prejudgment possession of farm equipment to a company that had security interest in it even though it had been traded to another company.

In Deere & Co. v. Travis Hostetler and New Holland Rochester, No. 25A05-1006-CC-367, the appellate court was asked to determine whether the trial court properly interpreted and applied Indiana Code section 32-35-2-14 that determines essentially which party is entitled to prejudgment possession.

In 2008, Travis Hostetler entered into two contracts with Deere & Co. to buy farm equipment, with the terms granting Deere purchase money security interest in the equipment. A few months later, Hostetler sought to purchase more farm equipment from New Holland and traded two pieces of equipment on which Deere had priority perfected liens. New Holland asked Hostetler about the liens, and Hostetler said they’d been satisfied. New Holland also contacted Farmers State Bank, which said the debt to Deere had been satisfied.

However, the liens had not been satisfied and Hostetler had defaulted on his payments under the contracts with Deere. Because of that, Deere accelerated the payment obligation; Hostetler owed $268,584.04 on the first contract and $20,166.03 on the second.

Deere filed a complaint against Hostetler and New Holland for replevin, although the court noted it is actually an action to foreclose a security interest.

The trial court denied Deere’s request for prejudgment possession of the equipment in question and authorized New Holland to sell the equipment. It also required Deere to release its liens, which led to this appeal.

For a plaintiff to recover in an action for replevin, he must prove that he has title or right to possession, that the property is unlawfully detained, and that the defendant wrongfully holds possession.

“It is black letter law that, upon default, a secured creditor has the right to take possession of the collateral securing its claim and the rights set forth in the agreement with the defaulting party. I.C. §§ 26-1-9.1-601(a), -609(a)(1). Furthermore, a security agreement is effective against purchasers of the collateral. I.C. § 26-1-9.1-201(a),” wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

New Holland argued it was a bona fide purchaser because it believed the liens had been satisfied because of statements to that effect by Hostetler and Farmers State Bank.

The court noted that to be a bona fide purchaser, a party must establish it obtained property without actual or constructive notice of any adverse claims to the property. However, New Holland had actual notice of Deere’s perfected security interest, the court noted.

“As a general rule, we find that it is unreasonable to rely on the statements of third parties – or the debtor –about the current status of security interests. Specifically, Hostetler had every reason to be untruthful – and, indeed, New Holland acknowledges that it is aware that customers often misrepresent the status of liens on equipment offered in trade. Tr. p. 26-27. Although it was, perhaps, more reasonable to rely on statements made by bank employees, there is simply no excuse for New Holland’s failure to contact Deere directly. Its decision to rely on statements made by a third party removes any defense it may have had as a bona fide purchaser,” the judge wrote.

As an aside, the appellate court noted that New Holland had filed a third-party complaint against Farmers State Bank.


 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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