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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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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