ILNews

Company not bound by defiant agent's actions

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A trial court erred in finding that a company was bound by its insurance agency's acts even though the agency acted against the company's wishes, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

Lupke Rice Insurance Agency sued former client Maxitrol to recover workers' compensation insurance premiums the agency paid on behalf of Maxitrol to insurance providers EBI Cos. and Royal Sun Alliance. Audits by the insurers found Maxitrol improperly classified some workers and owed additional premiums. Lupke Rice paid those premiums against the wishes of Maxitrol, which challenged the adjustment to their premiums. Lupke Rice agent Stanley Rice never told Maxitrol the company paid the premiums until after Maxitrol ended its workers' compensation insurance with Lupke Rice.

Maxitrol and Lupke Rice didn't reach an agreement on the unpaid adjustments and Lupke Rice sued Maxitrol for the nearly $64,000 in premium adjustments. The trial court found in favor of Lupke Rice, ruling Maxitrol was bound by Lupke Rice's acts, and that Maxitrol ratified the agency's payment of the adjusted premiums.

In Maxitrol Co. v. Lupke Rice Insurance Agency, Inc., No. 02A03-0905-CV-216, Maxitrol argued it's not liable for the adjusted premiums because Lupke Rice disregarded its instructions not to pay them. The Indiana Supreme Court has said that a principal is bound by the acts of a general agent if the agent acted within the ordinary and usual business scope in which it was employed, even if the agent violated private instructions of the principal. If either an innocent principal or a third party must suffer due to the betrayal of an agent's trust, then the loss should fall on the principal as the party who is most at fault because it put the agent in the position of trust.

But the rationale behind the rule doesn't apply in the instant case, wrote Senior Judge John Sharpnack.

"Here, we have a disobedient agent seeking reimbursement rather than an innocent third party seeking to enforce an agent's representations," he wrote. "Further, where a principal has instructed an agent not to do something, and the agent disobeys the principal, the agent is clearly more at fault than the principal. The rule was not intended to protect a disobedient agent."

The trial court also erred in ruling that Maxitrol ratified Lupke Rice's payments to Royal Sun Alliance. To hold a principal liable on grounds of ratification - explicit or implicit - it must be shown the principal ratified upon full knowledge of all material facts, or that he was willfully ignorant. Maxitrol didn't know Lupke Rice paid the RSA the premium adjustments and didn't learn about them until more than a year after the last payment was made.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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