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Company that violated HICA not entitled to attorney fees

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Because a company hired to provide water remediation services for a homeowner did not comply with the Indiana Home Improvement Contract Act, it is not entitled to recover attorney fees on its complaint against the homeowner after he didn’t pay the full amount billed.

Vincent Cullers hired First Response Services when discovering water in his basement after being away from home for several days. A company representative came to the house and discussed removing the carpet and pad from the basement, but no contract or estimate was given at that time. The next day a dumpster was delivered that Cullers did not expect. First Response employees arrived and began removing carpet. While they were working, an employee gave Cullers two documents to sign: a “Third Party Work Authorization” form and a “Customer Communication/Work Authorization” form listing.  The Third Party Work Authorization form mentions that Cullers is responsible for anything that is not covered by his insurer.

He signed the papers and left while work was being performed. When he returned, he found drying equipment in the basement, which he didn’t authorize. He contacted First Response to pick up the equipment and offered the company $1,200, which the company declined. It sent him an invoice for $7,722.43. He refused to pay more than $1,200, leading to this litigation.

The trial court found First Response violated the HICA by failing to provide Cullers a contract that included a reasonably detailed description of the proposed home improvements, the home improvement contract price, and starting and completion dates. There is a contractual obligation for Cullers to pay for First Response’s services, but because of the HICA violations, Cullers is only responsible for nearly half the amount First Response billed.

The trial court denied First Response’s request for attorney fees.

First Response argued that the contract was modified by I.C. 24-5-11-10(c) dealing with a contract entered into involving damages covered by an insurance policy. But there’s no evidence that Cullers was asked if his insurance would cover part of the cost or if he had contacted his insurance agent about coverage.

“It cannot have been the intent of the legislature to allow a company to routinely circumvent the strict requirements of the statute by simply obtaining information about the fact of insurance without also inquiring into whether the insurance would actually cover the work,” Judge Margret Robb wrote. “This is especially true given that a contract with the modified requirements is allowed by the terms of the statute if the work ‘is covered’ by insurance, not ‘if the consumer has insurance,’ or if the work ‘might be covered.’”

The two documents in this case needed to comply with the requirements of subsection (a) of HICA, and the contract failed in several respects, specifically with respect to a reasonably detailed description of the proposed home improvements and a price. As a result, First Response is not entitled to attorney fees.

The case is First Response Services, Inc. v. Vincent A. Cullers (Vincent A. Cullers Counterclaim Plaintiff v. First Response Services, Inc. Counterclaim Defendant), 41A01-1305-PL-224.
 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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