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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. 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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