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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. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

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  5. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

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