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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. 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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