COA reverses treble damages in business deal gone bad

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A trial court erred in awarding treble damages to an Indiana man who entered into a business venture with a North Carolina couple that ended up costing him more than $1 million in money owed to him, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded Thursday.

E.J. Agnew and Golden-AGI LLC sued Joel and Ruby Bowden and their companies, Golden Companies Inc. and Golden Purchasing and Staffing, after learning that he was owed profits from the Bowdens from a joint business venture they entered into to develop business with U.S. auto and truck producers and arrange for the production and delivery of parts from overseas manufacturers.

They entered into the 50/50 ownership deal in 2004 that created Golden AGI LLC. They were to split profits from a deal with a manufacturer in India, but Agnew later earned the Bowdens, who lived in North Carolina, used money from the India deal to pay off debts in a separate deal supplying parts to Cummins. He also learned that Golden AGI income and expenses were comingled with that of other Golden entities and that the Bowdens never intended to operate GAGI as a functional business entity.

Agnew sued for money damages in 2009; the Bowdens sought dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, which was denied. At the bench trial, Agnew’s expert David DeWitt, a licensed CPA, testified regarding the profits derived from the India deal. He said Agnew’s share was at least $1,754,278, which is the amount the trial court awarded to Agnew. The trial court also awarded treble damages based on the conclusion the Bowdens committed conversion. The Bowdens appealed.

“The Bowdens’ wrongful failure to distribute net revenue in accordance with the 50/50 agreement constitutes a failure to pay a debt, not criminal conversion. The money withheld from Agnew was not a separate, specifically identifiable chattel,” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote in Joel Bowden, Ruby Bowden, Golden Companies, Inc., and Golden Purchasing and Staffing, Inc. v. E.J. Agnew and Golden-AGI, LLC, 49A05-1301-PL-23. As such, the trial court erred in awarding treble damages under I.C. 34-24-3-1. The judges ordered the judgment reduced to the original $1.75 million awarded to Agnew.

The Court of Appeals found the trial court’s reliance on DeWitt’s expert testimony regarding damages was not erroneous and that the Indiana courts have personal jurisdiction over the North Carolina couple in their individual capacities.


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  1. Great observation Smith. By my lights, speaking personally, they already have. They counted my religious perspective in a pro-life context as a symptom of mental illness and then violated all semblance of due process to banish me for life from the Indiana bar. The headline reveals the truth of the Hoosier elite's animus. Details here: Denied 2016 petition for cert (this time around): (“2016Pet”) Amicus brief 2016: (“2016Amici”) As many may recall, I was banned for five years for failing to "repent" of my religious views on life and the law when a bar examiner demanded it of me, resulting in a time out to reconsider my "clinging." The time out did not work, so now I am banned for life. Here is the five year time out order: Denied 2010 petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): (“2010Pet”) Read this quickly if you are going to read it, the elites will likely demand it be pulled down or pile comments on to bury it. (As they have buried me.)

  2. if the proabortion zealots and intolerant secularist anti-religious bigots keep on shutting down every hint of religious observance in american society, or attacking every ounce of respect that the state may have left for it, they may just break off their teeth.

  3. "drug dealers and traffickers need to be locked up". "we cannot afford just to continue to build prisons". "drug abuse is strangling many families and communities". "establishing more treatment and prevention programs will also be priorities". Seems to be what politicians have been saying for at least three decades now. If these are the most original thoughts these two have on the issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse, then we're no closer to solving the problem than we were back in the 90s when crack cocaine was the epidemic. We really need to begin demanding more original thought from those we elect to office. We also need to begin to accept that each of us is part of the solution to a problem that government cannot solve.

  4. What is with the bias exclusion of the only candidate that made sense, Rex Bell? The Democrat and Republican Party have created this problem, why on earth would anyone believe they are able to fix it without pushing government into matters it doesn't belong?

  5. This is what happens when daddy hands over a business to his moron son and thinks that everything will be ok. this bankruptcy is nothing more than Gary pulling the strings to never pay the creditors that he and his son have ripped off. they are scum and they know it.