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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. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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