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Couple not entitled to attorney fees under Crime Victims Relief Act

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed that a Lake County couple who won a fraudulent misrepresentation judgment against the previous owners of the couple’s home are not entitled to certain fees under the Indiana Crime Victims Relief Act.

Joseph and M. Carmen Wysocki sued Barbara and William Johnson, individually and as trustees of the Barbara A. Johnson Living Trust, after discovering electrical and structural issues in their home shortly after purchasing it from the trust in 2006. An inspection report did not reveal the issues, and the Johnsons signed a real estate disclosure form that said there were no such issues with the house.

The case wound its way through the court system, making it to the Indiana Supreme Court, which remanded the case to reevaluate the Wysockis’ fraudulent misrepresentation claim, which was premised upon the allegation that the Johnsons made false statements on the disclosure form. The Indiana Court of Appeals had ruled the Wysockis failed to show that the Johnsons had actual knowledge of the defects and reversed judgment in favor of the Wysockis.

On remand, the trial court ruled in favor of the Wysockis but denied their request for attorney and expert fees under the CVRA, leading to this appeal in Joseph and M. Carmen Wysocki v. Barbara A. and William T. Johnson, both individually and as Trustees of the Barbara A. Johnson Living Trust, 45A03-1309-CT-385.

The Wysockis essentially want the Court of Appeals to create a bright-line rule that the CVRA is applicable in instances where a seller is held liable for false or incomplete statements in their disclosure forms. Focusing on just attorney fees, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, noting its conclusion applies with equal force to other fees recoverable under the CVRA.

Judge Ezra Friedlander pointed out the elements of common-law fraud and the criminal offense of fraud are different, so it cannot be said that authorization of attorney fees in the CVRA for victims of criminal offenses that can be categorized as fraud extends to the common-law tort of fraud.”

“Simply put, in its current form, the CVRA authorizes certain fees only for victims of certain, specific criminal offenses, as well as for liability arising under I.C. § 24-4.6-5 et seq., which does not apply here. The Wysockis were not victims of the criminal offense of fraud because the Johnsons were not charged with that crime in relation to the sale of the house, much less convicted of it in a court of law. In the absence of such a conviction, the CVRA does not apply.”

 

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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