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Forged agreement presents question of fact

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A company that forged a former employee's non-compete contract and later sued and settled with another company over that false document isn't entitled to summary judgment in a new suit brought by the other company after it learned the document was forged, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Tru-Cal Inc. hired a former employee of competitor Conrad Kacsik Instrument Systems Inc. shortly after he quit. Conrad filed suit against Tru-Cal and the employee, Steven Sulzbach, basing most of its claims on an employment agreement he allegedly signed while working for Conrad that said he wouldn't work for a competitor for two years. After Tru-Cal learned of the litigation in an Ohio court and the non-compete agreement, it settled the suit. Sulzbach maintained he never remembered signing the document. The settlement contained mutual releases and an integration clause.

About a year later, Tru-Cal learned the Sulzbach's signature on the document was most likely forged because a former executive of Conrad said no employees signed non-compete agreements. It filed the instant action against Conrad seeking treble damages and attorney fees pursuant to the Indiana Crime Victims Relief Act, alleged the Ohio litigation initiated by Conrad constituted abuse of process, and Tru-Cal was entitled to rescission of the settlement agreement, attorney fees, and punitive damages. Hamilton Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of Conrad on all of Tru-Cal's claims.

In the appeal, Tru-Cal v. Conrad, No. 29A04-0809-CV-511, the essence of the dispute between the companies appears to center on whether Tru-Cal rightfully or reasonably relied upon Conrad's forged documents and the Ohio litigation in filing its suit, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander. Conrad argues Tru-Cal couldn't reasonably rely upon these false representations because of the integration clause in the settlement agreement, which disclaimed reliance on any outside statement or representation.

The Court of Appeals found Prall v. Indiana National Bank, 627 N.E.2d 1374 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994), and Circle Ctr. Dev. Co. v. Y/G Ind., L.P., 762 N.E.2d 176 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), to be factually distinguishable from the instant case.

"Rather, the alleged fraud here involves a forged employment agreement that was filed in a court of law, along with a complaint and an affidavit that represented to the Ohio court that said agreement was valid," wrote the judge. "Assuming, as we must, that the employment agreement was forged, the Ohio litigation initiated by CKI was therefore a sham."

In the instant case, there's no doubt the fraud directly induced the execution of the settlement agreement or at least contributed to it as a cause, wrote Judge Friedlander. Tru-Cal presented a material issue of fact as to whether it had the right to rely on the employment agreement and other related representations made in the Ohio litigation.

The trial court also erred in granting summary judgment regarding Tru-Cal's Indiana Crime Victims Relief Act claim because there is a question of fact as to whether the conduct and or the result of any of the alleged offenses occurred in Indiana.

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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