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Court finds fax to be a contract

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of a landlord in his breach of lease claims against the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, finding a faxed agreement amending the original terms of the lease constituted a contract.

In Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles c/o Joel L. Silverman, commissioner v. Ash, Inc., No. 74A01-0711-CV-518, the BMV appealed the grant of summary judgment and damages award of $95,854.40 plus interest at 8 percent per annum to Ash, Inc. The BMV argued a fax sent to Ash modifying the terms of the original lease didn't constitute a contract, so the BMV wasn't bound by it.

The BMV leased two buildings from Ash in southern Indiana. Under the terms of the lease agreement, the BMV could terminate the lease with a 60-day notice to Ash and any modifications of the lease must be written and signed by both the BMV and Ash.

In January 2003, the BMV's leasing director faxed to Ash's owner, George "Butch" Crone, proposed modifications of the lease asking Crone to create parking spaces and an ADA-compliant ramped walkway at its Mount Vernon location, and make other improvements to the Mount Vernon and Rockport locations. The modification also said after the work was completed the cancellation term in the original lease would be removed.

Crone faxed the document to the leasing director, writing "I accept the above conditions" and signed his name. Crone completed the work and two years later, the BMV notified him they would be terminating the leases under the original cancellation term in the contract.

The BMV argued the January 2003 fax between the leasing director and Ash didn't constitute a contract, so it could cancel its lease with 60-days notice as under the original contract. The Court of Appeals ruled the fax was binding because it was in writing, both the BMV's leasing agent and Crone signed the fax, and the Statute of Frauds doesn't apply in this case, wrote Judge Carr Darden. As such, the cancellation term was no longer available to the BMV.

Even if the fax wasn't considered a contract, Ash would still be entitled to summary judgment under the doctrine of promissory estoppel, the judge continued.

The appellate court also affirmed the trial court denial of future damages to Ash because Crone failed to prove at trial what his future damages would be. The Court of Appeals remanded to the trial court to reduce the interest on the judgment from 8 percent to 6 percent pursuant to Indiana statute.

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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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