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Appeal of legal fees in frivolous case results in more fees

August 10, 2017

A father who appealed an award of attorney fees in a long-running dispute over the use of funds in a family limited partnership now must pay appellate legal fees as well, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. The court found the appeal “merely another attempt to harass the parties involved.”

Allen Superior Judge Craig Bobay granted summary judgment in favor of defendants in Landmark Legacy, LP and Dennis W. Fahlsing v. Dennis Runkle, D.R. Financial Inc., and D.R. Financial Group, Inc., 02A04-1702-PL-347. Bobay also found the case was frivolous and ordered Dennis Fahlsing to pay defendants’ legal fees of just over $55,000.

The trial court found the defendants were not liable on Fahlsing and Landmark’s claim that defendants had breached their fiduciary duty and committed negligence and malpractice for, among other things, allegedly failing to inform Fahlsing that assets in the limited partnership could not be spent for personal use. This litigation followed a suit brought against Fahlsing by his daughters alleging misuse of LP assets. Fahlsing countersued, and the litigation ultimately settled.

In the instant case, the COA affirmed the trial court’s award of attorney fees and ordered more, finding defendants were also entitled to appellate legal fees.

“Relying on the same substantive arguments that the trial court denied on summary judgment and pursuant to which the trial court awarded attorney fees, Appellants nevertheless ignored these unfavorable determinations and rulings by the trial court and instituted these appellate proceedings,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the panel. “As noted by the trial court, a simple investigation could have revealed that Appellants’ arguments were utterly devoid of all plausibility and appellants’ position was not consistent with reasonable advocacy grounded in established legal principles. Therefore, we conclude that this appeal was merely another attempt to harass the parties involved. Accordingly, we remand this cause to the trial court for a determination of reasonable appellate attorney fees to be awarded to Appellees.”

 

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