Court to decide on prevailing party issue

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer Thursday to determine who would be considered the "prevailing party" when a settlement lacks a judicial resolution.

In Kirk Reuille v. E.E. Brandenberger Construction, Inc., No. 02A04-0704-CV-186, Reuille appealed the trial court's judgment in favor of E.E. Brandenberger when the court decided Reuille was not the prevailing party in the contract between him and Brandenberger and said the trial court erred in characterizing his motion for attorney fees as one for summary judgment.

Reuille and Brandenberger entered into a contract for the construction of a new home in Fort Wayne. After completion, Reuille experienced water leakage through the windows during and after it would rain. Brandenberger attempted to fix the problem several times, but water continued to leak into the house.

Reuille filed a complaint against the company for breach of warranty, breach of contract, and negligence. He also added the maker of the windows to his suit. The three parties came to a partial agreement in mediation, with the exception of whether Brandenberger is liable for Reuille's costs, including attorney fees. In the contract Reuille entered into with Brandenberger, the prevailing party of any action at law or in equity involving a claim of at least $5,000 was entitled to reasonable costs, including attorney fees.

The trial court denied Reuille's motion for costs and attorney fees, finding Reuille wasn't the prevailing party.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court ruling, agreeing with Brandenberger's argument that with a private settlement only, Reuille is not a prevailing party as defined under Indiana law when the two entered into the contract or under current precedent. Even though the parties entered into a settlement agreement, Reuille didn't have a consent decree or an enforceable judgment entered along with the settlement agreement.

In terms of the trial court treating his motion for attorney fees as one for summary judgment, that was correct because there were no facts to dispute, so the hearing was for summary judgment, the Court of Appeals held.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.