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Judges disagree over use of summary judgment to pierce corporate veil

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One Court of Appeals judge believed the “only reasonable inference” that could be drawn from the evidence in a collections case is that a former company was a “sham corporation,” so the trial court properly pierced the corporate veil on summary judgment.

In Konrad Motor and Welder Service, Inc., Konrad Lambrecht, and Sharon Lambrecht v. Magnetech Industrial Services, Inc., 45A04-1203-CC-109, Judge Terry Crone dissented from his colleagues on the corporate veil issue, writing, “Although piercing the corporate veil is, and should be, a rare occurrence on summary judgment because of the highly fact-sensitive nature of the inquiry involved, I believe that it is appropriate when the relevant facts are undisputed and lead to only a single reasonable conclusion. The trial court reached the right conclusion here.”

Magnetech Industrial Services Inc. sued Konrad Motor & Welder Service Inc. and husband and wife Konrad and Sharon Lambrecht to recover a $35,000 judgment entered against a former company, Kondrad Electric, which was owned by Sharon Lambrecht. She shut down Konrad Electric in 2008. Her husband formed the corporation Konrad MWS in 2006.

The lawsuit at issue began in 2005 when a company sued Konrad Electric after problems arose with work Magnetech performed. Konrad Electric subcontracted the work to Magnetech. Konrad Electric then filed a third-party against Magnetech, leading to Magnetech’s counterclaim for payment of services.

While the lawsuits were pending, Sharon Lambrecht – who was sole shareholder and president – decided to close Konrad Electric and her husband launched Konrad MWS. Konrad Lambrecht worked for Konrad Electric as its general manager.

After Magnetech won the $35,000 judgment, it sued Konrad MWS and the Lambrechts in 2011 to recover the money. Konrad Electric was without assets to satisfy the judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment for Magnetech, piercing the corporate veil of Konrad Electric to hold the Lambrechts liable and finding Konrad MWS is the alter ego of Konrad Electric.

Judges Nancy Vaidik and Cale Bradford reversed on the corporate veil ruling, finding “While it may be that Konrad Electric’s corporate veil should be pierced, this determination should not have been made on summary judgment,” Vaidik wrote. The majority believed more than one inference can be drawn from the facts of this case.

The three judges upheld summary judgment regarding the finding Konrad MWS is the alter ego of the former corporation, finding significant similarities between the two corporations, including names, similar business services, and the timing of the shutting down of Konrad Electric and creating Konrad MWS.

“Konrad Electric tried to avoid paying the judgment to Magnetech while still conducting the same business under a new name, Konrad MWS. Konrad MWS offers no other reasonable inference,” Vaidik wrote.

The majority noted that on remand, if Konrad Electric’s corporate veil is pierced, Konrad Lambrecht, even though not a shareholder, may be held individually liable along with his wife.

 

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  1. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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