ILNews

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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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