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Home improvement contract enforceable

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Even though a restoration company’s contract with a homeowner did not satisfy the requirements of the Home Improvement Contracts Act, that did not automatically render the contract void, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. The judges reversed judgment in favor of the homeowner and ordered he pay the company for the work it performed.

In Imperial Insurance Restoration & Remodeling, Inc. v. James Costello, No. 10A05-1109-SC-478, James Costello and his wife hired Imperial Insurance Restoration and Remodeling to repair water damage in their home following a burst pipe. The Costellos’ insurance company put them in touch with Imperial. James Costello did not read the agreements he signed, which included a work authorization and a satisfaction of work completed. The paperwork he signed did not comply with the requirements of the Home Improvement Contracts Act, which Imperial later admitted.

The Costellos received $670 from their insurer to cover the clean-up costs but did not pay Imperial for the work. Imperial took James Costello to small claims court and the court ruled in his favor. He asserted as a defense that the contracts did not comply with the HICA and were void.

The appellate judges pointed out that the HICA is silent as to whether contracts that do not meet the requirements are void or unenforceable. It declares a nonconforming contract to be a deceptive act and affords the aggrieved customer the remedies available to victims of deceptive consumer sales under the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. The judges determined that the lack of the use of “void” or “unenforceable” in the HICA did not mean the General Assembly intended that every contract made in violation of the HICA was automatically void.

“If we were to so hold, Imperial would suffer both a serious and undeserved forfeiture outweighing the other factors,” wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey.

The COA ordered judgment be entered in favor of Imperial for $669.86 and that the small claims court determine the contractual interest due on the contract and if any costs and attorney fees should be awarded.

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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