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COA adopts rule allowing for partial subordination of 1st lienholder’s interest

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The Indiana Court of Appeals Wednesday decided the state should follow the majority rule on agreements to modify the priority of liens securing interests in a borrower’s assets.

Timothy, Lisa, Ross and Dane Clark and their farming operations pledged their 2010 crops as collateral to obtain loans from First Farmers Bank & Trust, Co-Alliance, LLP, and Monticello Farm Service, Inc. First Farmers was the first lienholder, Co-Alliance the second lienholder, and Monticello the third lienholder.  In June 2010, the bank and Monticello entered into an agreement in which Monticello would finance the Clarks’ 2010 crops, and in turn, the bank agreed to subordinate its interests in those crops to Monticello’s interests in the same.

Due to financial issues, Timothy and Lisa Clark entered into a settlement agreement which held the proceeds of their 2010 crop – $181,000, in an escrow account. Monticello sought to claim those proceeds based on the subordination agreement; Co-Alliance counterclaimed against Monticello, asserting it held the first priority lien. The trial court found Monticello was entitled to the disputed funds.

“The clear language of the subordination agreement shows that the parties’ intent was for the Bank to assign to Monticello a portion of any 2010 crop proceeds received by the Bank based on its status as the first lienholder. How else could the Bank have induced Monticello to make a loan but to guarantee it the right of first payment? Under these circumstances, treating a subordination of an interest differently from an assignment of that interest would add confusion to the law, not clarity, and would allow an intervening lienholder to obtain a windfall by becoming a senior lienholder through no action of his own,” Senior Judge Randall T. Shepard wrote. “Put another way, the agreement in this case is the functional and legal equivalent of a partial assignment. And in fact, such ‘partial subordination’ is the majority approach to subordination agreements.”

The appellate court rejected Co-Alliance’s claim that the court should adopt the approach that the bank’s lien drops to the end of the line based on the agreement. The COA instead adopted the majority rule, which allows for partial subordination of the first lienholder’s interest.

“The Bank could induce Monticello to finance the Clarks’ 2010 crops by giving Monticello its right to first payment. By virtue of the subordination agreement, Monticello would be paid first, but only up to the amount of the Bank’s senior claim, to which Co-Alliance was in any event junior. Co-Alliance would still receive what it expected to receive had there been no subordination agreement,” he wrote in Co-Alliance, LLP v. Monticello Farm Service, Inc., 91A05-1312-PL-607.
 

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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.

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