ILNews

COA sides with Lauth in casino suit

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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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.
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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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