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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. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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