ILNews

Court upholds home developer's liability

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court judgment in favor of homeowners against the developer of their neighborhood, affirming the developer is liable for misleading the homeowners as to what type of homes would be built in the new neighborhood.

In Robert K. Yeager, et al. v. David A. McManama, et al., 49A02-0607-CV-614, the Yeagers, sole members and owners of Yeager Realty, the developer, planned to build Emerald Highlands in the residential neighborhood Murphy's Landing. The developer executed and recorded the Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions of the Murphy's Landing Ownership, and included specific language applying to Emerald Highlands and a site plan for the area.

The McManamas and Cotteys agreed to purchase lots and build homes in the new neighborhood, relying on information from the developer and its exclusive builder, Steven Morse, that the neighborhood would be a high-quality, exclusive, upscale neighborhood. Once the plaintiffs built their more than 5,000-square-foot homes in the neighborhood, they noticed that the other homes being built were less than half the size of their homes, causing their home values to decrease.

The plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging fraud, constructive fraud, or fraudulent concealment, and breach of fiduciary duty. The developers were sole members of the Architectural Review Board, which was to regulate the design, appearance, use and location of homes in the neighborhood to maintain and enhance values and appearance.

The Yeagers filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that because the doctrines of fraud and constructive fraud do not apply, there is no fiduciary duty between the parties; and fraudulent concealment is not procedurally applicable in this case.

The trial court ruled the defendants owed the plaintiffs "a duty of fair dealing and honesty" and "a duty of good faith and fair dealing, as well as 'contractual obligations,' pursuant to the Declaration" and concluded the evidence showed the fraud and a failure to meet contractual and fiduciary duties.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's decision. The Yeagers were the sole owners and developers of the project and had drafted, executed, and recorded the neighborhood's declaration. The Yeagers were also sole members of the Architectural Review Board and were responsible for enforcing the standards of the homes constructed in Emerald Highlands.
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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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