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Justices address economic loss rule in 2 opinions

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In two separate rulings involving the “economic loss rule,” the Indiana Supreme Court ruled against a library seeking to hold subcontractors and an engineer responsible for negligence, and in favor of a bank in its tort claim against a title company.

In Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library v. Charlier Clark & Linard, P.C., et al., No. 06S05-0907-CV-332, the justices dealt the library a blow in its attempt to recover damages for repair costs and other fees because of a delay in the construction of the Central Library in Indianapolis. Construction was delayed after problems were discovered in the concrete used for the parking garage and foundation of the library. The library brought a lawsuit against the architect, general contractor, and various subcontractors for negligence. The library settled with the architect and general contractor, with whom it had a contractual relationship.

The trial court granted the remaining defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding the negligence claims were barred by the economic loss rule. The Indiana Court of Appeals majority affirmed.

In the IMCPL case, the justices extensively examined the economic loss rule and held that it applies in the instant case. The library is connected with the defendants through a network or chain of contracts in which the parties allocated their respective risks, duties, and remedies, and those contracts - not negligence law - govern the outcome of the library’s claims, wrote Justice Frank Sullivan.

“From the outset of the project, the Library looked to a series of contracts to establish the relative expectations of the parties. And reliance on contract law in this regard is perhaps greater in construction projects than any other industry,  …” wrote the justice.

The Supreme Court also emphasized that the economic loss rule operates as a general rule to preclude recovery in tort for economic loss and does so only for purely economic loss. There are exceptions to the general rule, but those don’t apply in the library’s case.
 
But one of those exceptions does apply in the case of U.S. Bank, N.A. v. Integrity Land Title Corp., No. 17S03-1002-CV-120, which is a case of first impression. The issue is whether or not a title company, after issuing an incorrect title commitment on which the lender relied to its detriment, owes a duty in tort to the recipient to which it certified clear title to the subject real property.

The facts of this case fit within the tort of negligent misrepresentation, so applicable tort law allows U.S. Bank’s tort claim to go forward, the justices ruled.

A buyer of real property got a mortgage from lender Texcorp Mortgage Bankers, who prior to lending the money, contracted with Integrity Land Title Corp. to prepare a title commitment, close the mortgage, and provide the company with an insured first and superior mortgage lien against the subject real property. Integrity’s search uncovered no judgments against the seller of the real property, but the search failed to show a 1998 foreclosure judgment from LPP mortgage.

U.S. Bank, as successor of Texcorp’s interests, intervened in LPP’s action to foreclose the 1998 judgment lien. The bank asserted claims against Integrity of breach of contract and tort of negligent real estate closing. The trial court found Integrity wasn’t in breach of contract and not negligent because it owed no duty to U.S. Bank in tort. The two parties did not have a contract.

Justice Sullivan noted that the existence or non-existence of a contract is not the dispositive factor for determining whether a tort action is allowable where special circumstances and overriding public polices have created exceptions.

Integrity should have known that Texcorp would act in justifiable reliance on the statement in the preliminary commitment that the title was free and clear. The relationship between Integrity and Texcorp was of an advisory nature and Integrity deliberately provided specific information in response to a request by Texcorp to guide Texcorp into its transaction with a third party. Integrity also affirmatively vouched for the accuracy of the information.

 Based on this, applicable tort law allows U.S. Bank’s tort claim to go forward.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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