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Court won't recognize non-fiduciary liability

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Indiana doesn’t allow people to sue when they’ve had corporate opportunities taken away by business partners who’ve gone off and formed new partnerships with others, and the state Court of Appeals declined to decide whether non-fiduciaries can be held liable for usurping corporate opportunity.

A three-judge appellate panel made that decision in Victor J. DiMaggio III v. Elias Rosario, et al., No. 64-A03-1009-PL-500, a case out of Porter Superior Court involving a Lake County business relationship that went bad.

Victor DiMaggio and Elias Rosario were shareholders in Galleria Reality Corporation in Lake County starting in 1997, and they remained in that real estate business through 2003 when Rosario and two others began Liberty Lake Estates  in Porter County. In March 2008, DiMaggio filed a complaint against Rosario and the other LLE shareholders claiming they’d usurped a corporate opportunity from the original business Galleria and caused damage to DiMaggio.

The suit claimed Rosario owed a fiduciary duty to DiMaggio, his fellow shareholder in Galleria, and that the initial business should have had the chance to develop real estate in Porter County prior to Rosario forming the LLE with the others and servicing that untapped market.

Porter Superior Judge William Alexa granted the requests from Rosario and the appellees to dismiss DiMaggio’s complaint on the grounds it failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. DiMaggio appealed, asking the Court of Appeals to determine that a shareholder’s fiduciary duty requires he be held liable if he usurps a corporate opportunity in a non-fiduciary manner.

DiMaggio contended that notion is supported, at least by inference, from the decision in Dreyer & Reinbold v. AutoXchange.com, 771 N.E. 2d 764 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), where the court addressed a partially related topic on corporate opportunity.

But the appellate court disagreed with that caselaw interpretation, saying Dreyer didn’t stand for the proposition that Indiana recognizes a claim that non-fiduciaries can be held liable for usurping corporate opportunity. Specifically, DiMaggio wanted the court to require that in order for a non-fiduciary to be held jointly and severely liable with a fiduciary of a corporation, that person must act knowingly when he or she joins with or aids someone in breaching that existing fiduciary relationship.

“Without deciding at this time whether Indiana should adopt DiMaggio’s proposed cause of action, we conclude that, even if we were to recognize the cause of action existed in Indiana, DiMaggio’s complaint did not state a claim upon which relief can be granted against the Appellees,” Judge James Kirsch wrote, referring to the lack of intentional behavior or knowledge that might be required.

The broader question remains for another day, and the lower court ruling is affirmed.
 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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