ILNews

Judges rule on first impression escrow matter

Jennifer Nelson
April 28, 2011
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For the first time, the Indiana Court of Appeals addressed whether it’s possible to create an escrow absent an escrow agreement or fee.

In Meridian Title Corp., v. Pilgrim Financing, LLC, No. 45A05-1010-CC-613, the appellate court had to decide whether Meridian Title Corp., a title insurance company, negligently disbursed the net closings of proceeds from a refinancing transaction involving Pilgrim Financing. The trial court had ruled in Pilgrim’s favor on the claim.

Pilgrim sued Meridian after Meridian released proceeds of a property sale to the two property buyers instead of Pilgrim. The buyers had mortgages with Pilgrim. Meridian argued it didn’t have a relationship with Pilgrim that would serve to impose a duty of care on Meridian; Pilgrim claimed Meridian assumed a duty to it gratuitously.

Meridian argued it could not have assumed a duty in escrow as Pilgrim claimed because there wasn’t an escrow agreement or payment of an escrow fee. The Court of Appeals noted there is very little jurisprudence regarding the general standards for escrow, and cited cases from 1881 and 1921 to find that Indiana traditionally hasn’t required an escrow agreement or fee to establish an escrow. The judges also declined to adopt such a requirement.

They held there is sufficient evidence to establish that Meridian held Pilgrim’s payoff letter and partial release in escrow. The letter and partial release served as security to Meridian that Pilgrim would provide the original release of mortgage upon satisfaction of the conditions of the letter. The judges also concluded that parties to an escrow bear a duty toward one another to act with due care.

The Court of Appeals found that Meridian didn’t adequately clarify the nature of the two property buyers’ transactions to Pilgrim, so Pilgrim didn’t have all the necessary information to make an informed decision regarding Pilgrim’s rights to the proceeds.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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