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Appellate panel affirms trial court in dispute over unpaid land rental

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A trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied a man damages for conversion, the Indiana Court of Appeals found.

In Nathan Abernathy v. Larry Bertram and Keith Broyles, No. 33A04-1106-CC-317, Nathan Abernathy appealed some of the trial court’s findings in his claim of breach of contract, quantum meruit, and unjust enrichment and conversion, stemming from a dispute over unpaid rent.

In the late spring of 2007, Keith Broyles and Abernathy entered into an oral agreement whereby Abernathy would pay cash to rent farm land from Broyles. Abernathy cleared the land and planted winter wheat for harvest in the summer of 2008. At some point during the summer of 2008, Broyles talked to Abernathy about his failure to pay rent. After that conversation, Broyles hired Larry Bertram to harvest the wheat Abernathy planted, and Broyles sold it to a grain mill for $3,293.74.

On June 4, 2009, Abernathy filed a complaint against Broyles for breach of contract and quantum meruit. Abernathy stated a claim against Broyles and Bertram for unjust enrichment and damages for conversion. On March 25, 2011, the trial court awarded Abernathy $3,950. That amount was based on the amount for which Broyles sold the crop and the value of lost hay or straw, minus $2,000 in rent Abernathy owed Broyles. The trial court found Abernathy proved his breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and quantum meruit claims, but it denied his conversion claim.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision to omit the value of Abernathy’s crop insurance policy in the amount of damages it ordered Broyles to pay. The COA also held the court did not err when it denied Abernathy’s conversion claim because he did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Broyles and Bertram intended to exercise unauthorized control over Abernathy’s property.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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