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COA: attorney's statement binding

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed partial summary judgment for Noble Roman’s Inc. in-store franchisees’ claim for constructive fraud because the franchisees’ then-attorney admitted that they were only pleading actual fraud against the company and that admission is binding.

In Kari Heyser, et al. v. Noble Roman's, Inc., et al., No. 29A04-1002-PL-71, Kari Heyser and other franchisees of Noble Roman’s asserted fraud and other claims against the pizza company and banks in relation to the franchisees’ agreements to open restaurants that subsequently failed.

At a March 25, 2009, hearing, the trial court granted the banks’ motion to dismiss. At that hearing, the franchisees’ then-counsel told the court “We have not plead constructive fraud.”

Noble Roman’s later filed a motion for partial summary judgment, stating that the franchisees weren’t alleging constructive fraud, but actual fraud, and many of the alleged fraud statements in the franchisees’ complaint and amendments didn’t qualify as actual fraud. The franchisees’ filed a response asserting both actual and constructive fraud.

In September 2009, the trial court granted Noble Roman’s motion, finding the attorney’s statement at the March 2009 hearing regarding constructive fraud was binding and the franchisees are estopped from asserting they plead constructive fraud in their complaint.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the franchisees’ former attorney’s statement was binding, citing several cases including Hockett v. Breunig, 526 N.E.2d 995, 998 (Ind. Ct. App. 1988).

On the record, the attorney unequivocally stated the franchisees’ fraud claims against the banks were based solely on allegedly fraudulent representations by Noble Roman’s, with whom the banks allegedly acted in conspiracy; and the franchisees were alleging actual fraud, not constructive fraud.

“Thus, the Franchisees’ then counsel admitted that the Franchisees were only pleading actual fraud against Noble Roman’s, who was the only defendant that allegedly made fraudulent statements. That admission was binding upon the Franchisees throughout the lawsuit,” wrote Senior Judge John Sharpnack.

The appellate court also remanded the cause for further proceedings.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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