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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. Actually, and most strikingly, the ruling failed to address the central issue to the whole case: Namely, Black Knight/LPS, who was NEVER a party to the State court litigation, and who is under a 2013 consent judgment in Indiana (where it has stipulated to the forgery of loan documents, the ones specifically at issue in my case)never disclosed itself in State court or remediated the forged loan documents as was REQUIRED of them by the CJ. In essence, what the court is willfully ignoring, is that it is setting a precedent that the supplier of a defective product, one whom is under a consent judgment stipulating to such, and under obligation to remediate said defective product, can: 1.) Ignore the CJ 2.) Allow counsel to commit fraud on the state court 3.) Then try to hide behind Rooker Feldman doctrine as a bar to being held culpable in federal court. The problem here is the court is in direct conflict with its own ruling(s) in Johnson v. Pushpin Holdings & Iqbal- 780 F.3d 728, at 730 “What Johnson adds - what the defendants in this suit have failed to appreciate—is that federal courts retain jurisdiction to award damages for fraud that imposes extrajudicial injury. The Supreme Court drew that very line in Exxon Mobil ... Iqbal alleges that the defendants conducted a racketeering enterprise that predates the state court’s judgments ...but Exxon Mobil shows that the Rooker Feldman doctrine asks what injury the plaintiff asks the federal court to redress, not whether the injury is “intertwined” with something else …Because Iqbal seeks damages for activity that (he alleges) predates the state litigation and caused injury independently of it, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine does not block this suit. It must be reinstated.” So, as I already noted to others, I now have the chance to bring my case to SCOTUS; the ruling by Wood & Posner is flawed on numerous levels,BUT most troubling is the fact that the authors KNOW it's a flawed ruling and choose to ignore the flaws for one simple reason: The courts have decided to agree with former AG Eric Holder that national banks "Are too big to fail" and must win at any cost-even that of due process, case precedent, & the truth....Let's see if SCOTUS wants a bite at the apple.

  2. I am in NJ & just found out that there is a judgment against me in an action by Driver's Solutions LLC in IN. I was never served with any Court pleadings, etc. and the only thing that I can find out is that they were using an old Staten Island NY address for me. I have been in NJ for over 20 years and cannot get any response from Drivers Solutions in IN. They have a different lawyer now. I need to get this vacated or stopped - it is now almost double & at 18%. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  3. I am in NJ & just found out that there is a judgment against me in an action by Driver's Solutions LLC in IN. I was never served with any Court pleadings, etc. and the only thing that I can find out is that they were using an old Staten Island NY address for me. I have been in NJ for over 20 years and cannot get any response from Drivers Solutions in IN. They have a different lawyer now. I need to get this vacated or stopped - it is now almost double & at 18%. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  4. Please I need help with my class action lawsuits, im currently in pro-se and im having hard time findiNG A LAWYER TO ASSIST ME

  5. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

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