COA sides with Lauth in casino suit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Indianapolis commercial developer Lauth didn't breach a joint venture contract or any of its duties with other parties by partnering with the Bloomington-based Cook Group on an Orange County riverboat casino project, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

In a unanimous holding in Lauth Indiana Resort & Casino LLC v. Lost River Development LLC, et al., 29A02-0710-CV-839, the court ruled on an issue of first impression about when a joint venture terminates in situations where the agreements contain no specific termination date, creating a bright-line rule as it reversed a ruling from Hamilton Superior Judge Steven Nation that determined there was an issue of fact about whether Lauth had violated the agreement and that a jury should decide that issue.

This case stems from the construction of an Orange County riverboat casino project starting in 2004. Three companies submitted original proposals - Trump Indiana Casino Management, Orange County Development affiliated with Larry Bird, and Lost River that was formed by Merit Gaming Group. After Lost River submitted its proposal, Lauth contacted the developer and they formalized an agreement that provided Lauth would have 50 percent ownership to create a joint venture.

The Indiana Gaming Commission debated between the Trump Indiana and the Lost River/Lauth proposal, ultimately deciding on Trump Indiana. Lauth started contacting other gaming companies and developers to see if anyone would partner with them in case Trump didn't come through; Lauth eventually partnered with the Cook Group to submit another proposal under the name Blue Sky Casino LLC. They won the bid, and the casino opened in Nov. 1, 2006.

As the project was ongoing, Lost River and Merit filed a complaint in late 2005 against Lauth and the Cook Group and alleged they'd entered into an enforceable contract for a joint venture and that, by teaming with Cook Group to form Blue Sky, the Indianapolis developer breached the contract.

Lauth filed a motion for summary judgment in June 2006 claiming that the agreement formed a joint venture at most and that it was terminated when the Gaming Commission chose Trump over Lost River's proposal. At the trial level, Judge Nation dismissed that motion, finding that it didn't contemplate a second bid proposal and that federal caselaw says that a formed joint venture agreement generally "remains in force until its purpose is accomplished or that purpose becomes impracticable."

The Court of Appeals disagreed, and its ruling gives guidance as to when a joint venture agreement ends if nothing is written or specifically detailed about how it ends.

"In conclusion, we hold that if a joint venture is formed for the purpose of submitting a proposal or similar bid, and the joint venture agreement is silent as to when or under what circumstances that venture will end, then the joint venture ends when the proposal or bid is rejected," the court wrote.

In this case, the Lost River joint venture ended as a matter of law when the IGC chose Trump Indiana. As a result, Lauth didn't breach the agreement and the trial judge erred in denying Lauth's motion for summary judgment, the appellate court said.

The case is remanded.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.