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COA rules in favor of remodeler on unhappy client’s claim

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Finding the Clark Circuit Court erred in considering parol evidence when denying a remodeler’s motion for summary judgment, the Indiana Court of Appeals found the lower court should grant his motion on a lawsuit brought by a client for negligently performing work on her home.

Jenny Eldridge hired Kirstan Haub’s company American Handyman Service to do work and renovation projects around her home. At one point, he severed a gas line on her property and also did not refinish Eldridge’s hardwood floors properly. Haub sought to have his insurer, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, cover the cost for the work on the floors, but his insurer found the policy excluded coverage for defects in workmanship.

Eldrige later hired an attorney, who sought to settle with IFBI for the additional costs that Eldridge claimed she had to pay for work that was performed in a “negligent and unworkmanlike manner.”

Although her claims typically wouldn’t be covered by Haub’s insurance, a representative offered Eldridge $3,500 if Eldridge would sign a release of all claims against Haub and his company. She signed it and received the check.

But after the settlement, she sued Haub over the negligent work and property damage. Haub sought summary judgment, citing the release Eldridge signed. In her response, Eldridge designated as evidence a letter that her attorney allegedly sent to the IFBI representative which said her acceptance of the settlement wouldn’t preclude her claim against Haub for defective or incomplete work. The insurance company never received the letter.

Clark Circuit Special Judge Susan L. Orth cited the letter in her decision to deny Haub’s motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed in Kirstan Haub, d/b/a American Handyman Service v. Jenny Eldridge, 10A01-1203-PL-107, finding the language of the release to be unambiguous in that it prevents Eldridge from bringing any suit for the work at issue in the settlement and that Orth erred in considering parol evidence. The appellate court ordered the trial court to enter summary judgment in favor of Haub.

 

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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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