Man entitled to commission, but a reduced amount

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Because a former employee wasn’t aware of nor agreed to a plan that would effectively limit his earnings from selling crop insurance, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed based on Indiana law that he was entitled to his commission he secured in 2005 even if premiums weren't received until later. The appellate court did, however, reduce the amount of money his former employer owed him due to draws and set-offs.

Wells Fargo Insurance appealed summary judgment in favor of Bruce A. Land, who sold crop insurance for the company from April 2005 until the beginning of February 2006. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Land worked for JS Crop Insurance, which sold its assets to Wells Fargo in April 2005.

Wells Fargo claimed the trial court erred in determining the amount of Land’s 2005 crop-year commissions and whether the company is entitled to deduct the amount of Land’s 2006 draw from his 2005 commissions. On appeal, Land claimed Wells Fargo’s arguments were barred by judicial estoppel and that he was entitled to additional attorney fees and appellate attorney fees.

In Wells Fargo Insurance Inc. v. Bruce A. Land, No. 48A02-0911-CV-1099, the appellate court ruled Wells Fargo’s arguments weren’t barred by judicial estoppel. The trial court was correct in finding that Land was entitled to commissions for crop insurance he sold in 2005 regardless of when the premiums were paid. Wells Fargo had a commission plan that gave employees commission only when premiums were paid on those policies, and the company claimed Land shouldn’t get any commission on premiums paid after he left the company.

But Land wasn’t aware of, didn’t agree to, nor did he sign the commission plan, wrote Senior Judge John Sharpnack. Thus, he was entitled to nearly $56,000 for 2005 commissions paid to the agency before Jan. 1, 2006, and $10,600 in 2005 commissions paid in 2006 before he left.

Because Land’s 2005 draw was $35,217, that amount was subtracted from his 2005 commissions. Also subtracted was the $10,500 in compensation he received from JS Crop for 2005. Wells Fargo is also entitled to a set-off of Land’s 2006 draw that the company paid him before he resigned. Land was paid solely in commission, and because he didn’t make any commission in 2006, allowing him to keep the $6,049 draw would be windfall. The appellate court subtracted the $6,049 to leave Land with a balance of commission owed him to around $15,300.

In addition, because Wells Fargo already paid him more than $10,000 in commissions in March 2006, the appellate court reduced the amount owed to $4,589. The Court of Appeals applied the statutory penalty provided for in Indiana Code Section 22-2-5-2, and assessed a penalty of more than $9,100 to bring the total owed to Land to be more than $13,700.

Land is also entitled to trial attorney fees, which the trial court denied, as well as appellate attorney fees. The Court of Appeals remanded with instructions to determine the amount and reasonableness of attorney fees to which Land is entitled.


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