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COA finds Yellow Book ad contract induced by fraud

May 22, 2014

A heating and cooling company does not owe Yellow Book for a contract it tried to break after finding the publication didn’t change the terms of the contract as promised, the Indiana Court of Appeals held. But, the heating and cooling company is on the hook for two other contracts it had that it failed to fully pay.

Larry Stone’s company, Central Indiana Cooling and Heating, entered into three 12-month contracts with Yellow Book to advertise in certain directories for the years 2008 – 2010. Yellow Book sued in August 2011, claiming the company failed to pay for the advertising as provided by the contracts and his personal guarantee on two of the contracts.

The trial court found that Stone and his company were appropriately credited for payments he testified he made to Yellow Book which he claimed the company didn’t apply, and it ruled that he properly cancelled Contract 3. This contract Stone claimed he signed with the understanding that the terms of the contract were just a placeholder until he could sign a new, less expensive contract. But after no one contacted him with a new contract, he was unable to reach anyone at Yellow Book afterward to cancel the contract.

The trial court also denied attorney fees for Yellow Book.

In Yellowbook Inc. f/k/a Yellow Book Sales and Distribution Company, Inc. v. Central Indiana Cooling and Heating, Inc. and Lawrence E. Stone aka Larry Stone, 30A05-1311-CC-561, the Court of Appeals found that Stone, in fact, was credited for payments that he claimed were missing. Stone admitted at trial that all payments he had perceived as omitted from Yellow Book’s account statement had in fact been credited toward his unpaid balances. Thus, the trial court improperly concluded he was not indebted to Yellow Book under contracts 1 and 2.

There was no error in concluding that Contract 3 was properly cancelled. Yellow Book argued that evidence of the oral misrepresentations made by Yellow Book’s salesperson to Stone are not admissible due to an integration clause in Contract 3. But Stone can overcome this clause because he relied on misrepresentations by Yellow Book when he signed Contract 3 as a placeholder contract. He was supposed to have a smaller contract, but he never received one and his attempts to reach someone at the company were not answered.

The trial court remanded for calculation of pre-judgment interest on contracts 1 and 2 and a determination of attorney fees for work done on those contracts.

 

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