ILNews

Judges rule on first impression escrow matter

Jennifer Nelson
April 28, 2011
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For the first time, the Indiana Court of Appeals addressed whether it’s possible to create an escrow absent an escrow agreement or fee.

In Meridian Title Corp., v. Pilgrim Financing, LLC, No. 45A05-1010-CC-613, the appellate court had to decide whether Meridian Title Corp., a title insurance company, negligently disbursed the net closings of proceeds from a refinancing transaction involving Pilgrim Financing. The trial court had ruled in Pilgrim’s favor on the claim.

Pilgrim sued Meridian after Meridian released proceeds of a property sale to the two property buyers instead of Pilgrim. The buyers had mortgages with Pilgrim. Meridian argued it didn’t have a relationship with Pilgrim that would serve to impose a duty of care on Meridian; Pilgrim claimed Meridian assumed a duty to it gratuitously.

Meridian argued it could not have assumed a duty in escrow as Pilgrim claimed because there wasn’t an escrow agreement or payment of an escrow fee. The Court of Appeals noted there is very little jurisprudence regarding the general standards for escrow, and cited cases from 1881 and 1921 to find that Indiana traditionally hasn’t required an escrow agreement or fee to establish an escrow. The judges also declined to adopt such a requirement.

They held there is sufficient evidence to establish that Meridian held Pilgrim’s payoff letter and partial release in escrow. The letter and partial release served as security to Meridian that Pilgrim would provide the original release of mortgage upon satisfaction of the conditions of the letter. The judges also concluded that parties to an escrow bear a duty toward one another to act with due care.

The Court of Appeals found that Meridian didn’t adequately clarify the nature of the two property buyers’ transactions to Pilgrim, so Pilgrim didn’t have all the necessary information to make an informed decision regarding Pilgrim’s rights to the proceeds.

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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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