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Judges: Integration clause doesn’t preclude introduction of parol evidence

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held Tuesday that in the absence of a factual inquiry, the mere presence of an integration clause doesn’t preclude a party from introducing parol evidence that it was fraudulently induced to enter into the agreement as a whole. The decision came in a dispute involving a settlement agreement that one party sought to invalidate based on claims of fraudulent inducement.

Judson Atkinson Candies Inc. and Kenray Associates Inc. settled two lawsuits through an agreement that required Kenray to pursue its insurer for coverage of Atkinson’s claims that Kenray failed to satisfy certain technology agreements and representations. But after Kenray’s insurer Hoosier Insurance Co. won judgments that it did not have to provide coverage for Atkinson’s claims, Atkinson alleged that it had been fraudulently induced to enter into the agreement by relying on oral representations made by Kenray that its insurer would cover the claims when in fact it already knew it would not.

As part of the settlement, the parties entered into a covenant not to execute, which contained language the District Court concluded was an integration clause: “The parties agree this agreement represents the parties’ sole agreement.”

Magistrate Judge William G. Hussmann Jr. held that because the covenant contained an unambiguous integration clause, parol evidence could not be considered to vary the terms of the agreement. But if Atkinson could show there was fraud in the inducement specific to the integration clause, then it may still be able to circumvent the parol evidence rule and prevail on its claim.  

“The question before us then lies at the intersection of … two legal principles. To wit, where a party to a contract alleges fraudulent inducement and the contract in question has a valid integration clause, must the party demonstrate that it was fraudulently induced to agree to the integration clause itself before it can rely upon prior representations to vitiate the contract, or is it sufficient for a party to show that it was fraudulently induced to enter into the contract as a whole? Relying upon Circle Centre(Dev. Co. v. Y/G Ind., L.P., 762 N.E.2d 176, 179 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), the district court found that, before Atkinson could invoke any parol evidence, it had to show that it had been fraudulently induced to agree to the integration clause itself. Because we believe that this is too narrow a reading of Indiana law, we reverse,” wrote Judge John Z. Lee, of the Northern District of Illinois, sitting by designation.

“The imposition of an inflexible rule that would require a party claiming fraudulent inducement to demonstrate that he or she was fraudulently induced to agree to the integration clause itself would unreasonably restrict the trial court’s ability to conduct the factual analysis that the Indiana Supreme Court requires,” he continued in Judson Atkinson Candies, Incorporated v. Kenray Associates, Incorporated, Charles A. McGee and Kenneth J. McGee, 12-1035, 12-1036.

The Circuit Court ruled that by invoking a categorical rule without conducting a case-by-case analysis,  the magistrate judge’s decision is inconsistent with the Indiana Supreme Court’s pronouncements in Franklin v. White, 493 N.E.2d 161, 166 (Ind. 1986) and the Indiana Court of Appeals decisions of Prall v. Ind. Nat’l Bank, 627 N.E.2d 1374, 1378 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994), and its progeny.  

The case goes back to the District Court for further proceedings.

 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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