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. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  2. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

  3. We have been on the waiting list since 2009, i was notified almost 4 months ago that we were going to start receiving payments and we still have received nothing. Every time I call I'm told I just have to wait it's in the lawyers hands. Is everyone else still waiting?

  4. I hope you dont mind but to answer my question. What amendment does this case pretain to?

  5. Research by William J Federer Chief Justice John Marshall commented May 9, 1833, on the pamphlet The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States written by Rev. Jasper Adams, President of the College of Charleston, South Carolina (The Papers of John Marshall, ed. Charles Hobson, Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2006, p, 278): "Reverend Sir, I am much indebted to you for the copy of your valuable sermon on the relation of Christianity to civil government preached before the convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Charleston, on the 13th of February last. I have read it with great attention and advantage. The documents annexed to the sermon certainly go far in sustaining the proposition which it is your purpose to establish. One great object of the colonial charters was avowedly the propagation of the Christian faith. Means have been employed to accomplish this object, and those means have been used by government..." John Marshall continued: "No person, I believe, questions the importance of religion to the happiness of man even during his existence in this world. It has at all times employed his most serious meditation, and had a decided influence on his conduct. The American population is entirely Christian, and with us, Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange, indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations with it. Legislation on the subject is admitted to require great delicacy, because freedom of conscience and respect for our religion both claim our most serious regard. You have allowed their full influence to both. With very great respect, I am Sir, your Obedt., J. Marshall."