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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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