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COA: trial court erred in piercing corporate veil

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Because there was no causal connection established between misuse of the corporate form and fraud or injustice, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision to pierce the corporate veil.

In CBR Event Decorators, Inc., Gregory Rankin, Robert Cochrane and John Bales v. Todd M. Gates, No. 49A02-1010-CT-1117, Robert Cochrane, John Bales and Gregory Rankin arranged to purchase MCS Decorators Inc.’s assets from Todd Gates. Gates had loaned money to the company, which was owned and operated by his then-son-in-law, David Marquart. Cochrane, Bales and Rankin formed a limited liability company to purchase the assets from Gates, who had initiated a replevin action to foreclose on his security interest in MCS’ assets. The three men became shareholders of CBR Event Decorators Inc.

The shareholders gave Gates $100,000 for a down payment, but a day later, the shareholders claimed MCS’ status with regard to clients’ relationships with the company was misrepresented. Gates refused to return the money, so a stop payment was put on the check. Gates never transferred any assets to CBR.

Gates sued CBR claiming breach of contract and that the corporate veil should be pierced to allow the imposition of personal liability on the shareholders. The trial court accepted in full Gates’ proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law and entered judgment in favor of Gates for $260,815.77 plus interest and attorney fees. The judge also found that the shareholders had fraudulently conveyed $100,000 by withdrawing it from their attorney’s trust account.

To justify the decision to pierce the corporate veil, the trial court determined that CBR was undercapitalized, lacked corporate records, and the shareholders had fraudulently represented to Gates in the purchase agreement that there were no representations, warranties, or understandings other than those set forth or provided for in the purchase agreement.

The Court of Appeals reversed the piercing of the corporate veil, relying on caselaw that supports the shareholders’ assertion that the fraud or injustice alleged by a party seeking to pierce the corporate veil must be caused by, or result from, misuse of the corporate form. The fraud alleged by Gates had nothing to do with the misuse of the corporate form, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik, and the necessary causal link doesn’t exist because the alleged misrepresentation doesn’t pertain to CBR’s corporate status.

The judges did affirm the judgment against CBR for breach of contract and against the shareholders for $100,000 for fraudulent conveyance, fraudulent transfer, and wrongful stop payment. The appellate court ordered the trial court to determine the portion of attorney fees the shareholders are liable for to Gates as a result of the wrongful stop payment.

 

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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