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Couple not a 'successful party' in settlement

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Despite a lack of Indiana caselaw addressing the use of the term "successful party" for an award of attorney fees after a settlement, the Indiana Court of Appeals deemed the term interchangeable with the term "prevailing party."

In Francisco and Alisa Delgado v. Peter Boyles, et al., No. 64A04-0911-CV-657, the Delgados appealed the denial of their request for attorney fees following a settlement on a failed real estate transaction with Peter Boyles. They claimed per the provisions of their vacant land purchase agreement, they were the "successful party" under the terms of the agreement and should be able to recoup attorney fees.

As part of the agreement, it said "If either party sues the other to collect said damages, the unsuccessful party shall be obligated to pay the successful party's reasonable costs and attorney fees as part of any judgment recovered ..."

The Delgados failed to secure financing to purchase the land, so they sought the return of their $5,000 earnest money and attorney fees. Boyles counterclaimed for more than $30,000 in damages and attorney fees per the agreement.

A settlement was reached returning the $5,000 to the Delgados, with the parties submitting briefs on attorney fees. The trial court concluded that because there was no judgment recovered in the case, there was no prevailing party, so no attorney fees could be awarded under the agreement.

There isn't a case addressing the application of a contractual characterization of a "successful party" to an award of attorney fees, but Indiana has repeatedly ruled on the issue regarding the prevailing party. The prevailing party in the context of attorney fees is the one who successfully prosecutes his or claim or asserts his defense, so there is no difference in the meaning of the two terms.

Relying on Daffron v. Snyder, 854 N.E.2d 52, 53 (Ind. Ct. App. 2006), and Reuille v. E.E. Brandenberger Construction Inc., 888 N.E.2d 770 (Ind. 2008), the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's decision that the Delgados can't be considered the prevailing party under the vacant land purchase agreement. The Delgados' land agreement didn't define what constituted a successful party.

"Moreover, in the absence of a contractual definition of prevailing or successful party and a trial on the merits, as in Reuille, we conclude that litigation which is resolved by mediation or private settlement cannot result in a winner or loser," wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

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  1. First comment on this thread is a fitting final comment on this thread, as that the MCBA never answered Duncan's fine question, and now even Eric Holder agrees that the MCBA was in material error as to the facts: "I don't get it" from Duncan December 1, 2014 5:10 PM "The Grand Jury met for 25 days and heard 70 hours of testimony according to this article and they made a decision that no crime occurred. On what basis does the MCBA conclude that their decision was "unjust"? What special knowledge or evidence does the MCBA have that the Grand Jury hearing this matter was unaware of? The system that we as lawyers are sworn to uphold made a decision that there was insufficient proof that officer committed a crime. How can any of us say we know better what was right than the jury that actually heard all of the the evidence in this case."

  2. wow is this a bunch of bs! i know the facts!

  3. MCBA .... time for a new release about your entire membership (or is it just the alter ego) being "saddened and disappointed" in the failure to lynch a police officer protecting himself in the line of duty. But this time against Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation: "WASHINGTON — Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/us/justice-department-ferguson-civil-rights-darren-wilson.html?ref=us&_r=0

  4. Dr wail asfour lives 3 hours from the hospital,where if he gets an emergency at least he needs three hours,while even if he is on call he should be in a location where it gives him max 10 minutes to be beside the patient,they get paid double on their on call days ,where look how they handle it,so if the death of the patient occurs on weekend and these doctors still repeat same pattern such issue should be raised,they should be closer to the patient.on other hand if all the death occured on the absence of the Dr and the nurses handle it,the nurses should get trained how to function appearntly they not that good,if the Dr lives 3 hours far from the hospital on his call days he should sleep in the hospital

  5. It's a capital offense...one for you Latin scholars..

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