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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. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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