ILNews

Jury should decide whether Duke Realty intended to get law partner fired

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

There are genuine issues of material fact as to whether Duke Realty, involved in a dispute over a land agreement with a Parr Richey Obremskey & Morton partner, intentionally induced the firm to terminate Carol Sparks Drake’s partnership agreement and whether that interference was justified, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

Drake owned land in Boone County next to the Anson Project development Duke Realty was constructing in 2003. She declined to sell her land, and the two later entered into a land-use agreement that limited how Duke Realty could develop the property near Drake’s land. During this time, Parr Richey suspended its representation of Duke Realty on the project until the land-use agreement was executed in 2004.

But a dispute over the agreement caused Duke Realty to inform the partners at Parr Richey that it was in the firm’s best interest to resolve the issue between Drake and the company. If Drake filed anything against Duke Realty regarding the land-use agreement, then whatever relationship Duke Realty had with the firm would be ended, Duke Realty told Parr Richey.

Shortly thereafter, the other partners agreed to remove Drake as a partner at the end of 2006. She sued Duke Realty for tortious interference with her partnership. The trial court granted the company’s motion for summary judgment.

At issue in Carol Sparks Drake v. Thomas A. Dickey, Craig Anderson, Charles E. Podell, and Duke Realty Corporation, 29A02-1302-CT-152, are the tortious interference elements of the defendant’s intentional inducement of breach of the contract and the absence of justification. The Court of Appeals found genuine issues of material fact regarding both these elements.

“The question remains whether, when Duke Realty demanded of Parr Richey that Drake cease and desist from enforcing her rights under the Land Use Agreement, Duke Realty intentionally induced Parr Richey to remove Drake as a partner without legal justification,” Judge Edward Najam wrote.

The judges also found it is not necessary for Duke Realty to have specifically intended only that Drake be terminated as a partner for the company to have tortiously interfered with the partnership agreement.

Duke Realty pointed to Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 1.7(a)(2) to say that even if it did interfere with the partnership agreement, it had a legitimate business reason to do so.

“But our Rules of Professional Conduct do not justify a client’s tortious behavior toward an attorney. While Duke Realty has an unfettered right to terminate its attorney-client relationship with Parr Richey, Duke Realty could have exercised that right without issuing a threat or ultimatum regarding Drake,” Najam wrote.

“Again, Duke Realty’s argument ignores the fact that it did not simply terminate its attorney-client relationship but, rather, used its status as a Parr Richey client as leverage in its dispute with Drake.”

A jury should decide Duke Realty’s intent and whether its threat to withdraw all of its business from Parr Richey was merely an expression of a client’s legitimate concern about a conflict of interest.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Oh my lordy Therapist Oniha of the winexbackspell@gmail.com I GOT Briggs BACK. Im so excited, It only took 2days for him to come home. bless divinity and bless god. i must be dreaming as i never thoughts he would be back to me after all this time. I am so much shock and just cant believe my eyes. thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart,he always kiss and hug me now at all times,am so happy my heart is back to me with your help Therapist Oniha.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

ADVERTISEMENT