COA upholds award of attorney fees but orders damages amount reduced against construction company

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A claimed scrivener’s error on the Secretary of State’s website should not be held against the couple filing the lawsuit against a company, the Indiana Court of Appeals held. The error involving an incorrect address on the website was made by an employee of the company being sued more than two years before the suit was filed.

A representative of Storm Damage Specialists of America solicited Porter County couple Melissa and Michael Johnson to repair their roof for suspected hail damage. The Johnsons agreed to hire the company and their insurer sent a check for $4,224.78 to the company to perform the work. SDS never repaired the roof and refused to refund the insurance proceeds.

The Johnsons sued SDS and sent the summons to the name and Gary address listed on the Secretary of State’s website. SDS never replied or appeared in court, so the trial court granted default judgment to the Johnsons. They received $23,936.94 for compensatory damages, treble damages, prejudgment interest, costs, and reasonable attorney fees, plus statutory interest at 8 percent per annum.

After the judgment was entered, SDS filed a motion to correct error, citing lack of service and an error in the judgment amount as grounds to set aside the award. It claimed an accountant sent the wrong address to the SOS’s office two years prior to the Johnsons’ lawsuit, but never corrected the error. The Johnsons had no reason to believe the address was an error because someone signed the return receipt at the address.

“The Johnsons complied with our rules of trial procedure when they sent the complaint and summons to Storm Damage Specialists’ acknowledged registered agent at the address it provided to the Indiana Secretary of State,” Judge John Baker wrote in Storm Damage Specialists of America d/b/a America's SDS Construction, Inc. v. Melissa A. Johnson and Michael B. Johnson, 64A03-1209-CT-386. “In our view, the fact that the registering of that particular address is claimed to be a scrivener’s error on the part of Storm Damage Specialists’ accountant is a burden that should be born by the company.”

But the amount of damages should be reduced, the judges ruled and the Johnsons conceded, because the trial court erred in quadrupling rather than trebling the compensatory damages that were awarded. The damage award should be reduced by $4,224.78. The amount of attorney fees awarded was affirmed.



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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues