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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. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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