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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. Such things are no more elections than those in the late, unlamented Soviet Union.

  2. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  3. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  4. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  5. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

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