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Man lacks standing to pursue cause of actions in failed home purchase

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that the underwriter of title insurance stands in the shoes of its insureds, so a man suing several entities over a failed home purchase lacks standing to pursue his causes of action.

Beneficial Mortgage Co. of Indiana purchased a property it had funded in a sheriff’s sale. Real estate taxes were owed on the property, and it was purchased at a tax sale several days after Beneficial received title. The Wolvertons purchased the property at issue in the tax sale in September 2000 and sent notice to Beneficial.

Guadalupe Puente obtained a mortgage from PNC to purchase the property from Beneficial in April 2001. When Puente purchased the property, Meridian Title Corp. issued a standard American Land Title Association policy of title insurance to him and a lender’s policy of title insurance to PNC. Fidelity was the underwriter for both policies.

The Wolvertons filed a quiet-title action and eventually were victorious in their suit. Puente, in 2008, vacated the property. The trial court awarded the Wolvertons $5,700 in damages, which took into account their lost rent during the 62 months at issue plus the $16,000 in increased property value during Puente’s occupancy as a result of his efforts.

At issue in Guadalupe Puente v. Beneficial Mortgage Co. of Indiana, PNC Bank, Fidelity National Title Insurance Co., and Meridian Title Corp., 45A03-1304-PL-159, is whether Fidelity has subrogration rights to pursue Puente’s claims against Beneficial and others.

“Puente argues that subrogation is an entirely equitable remedy and that the equities in this case counsel against subrogation. Fidelity argues, and the trial court held, that equitable subrogation is not applicable here. Rather, the plain terms of the insurance policy’s subrogation clause eliminated any need to consider the equities because Fidelity is entitled to subrogation as a matter of contractual right. The question therefore is whether the right of subrogation can exist by contract, without the need to resort to a balancing of the equities,” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote.  
Several jurisdictions have specifically addressed the question presented here: whether conventional subrogation is subject to equitable considerations, and the decisions have gone both ways, the court noted.

When it comes to subrogation provisions in insurance policies, the court adopted the view that equity is not a consideration in cases involving conventional – or contractual – subrogation.

“Ultimately, it places the onus on parties to an insurance contract to negotiate terms as they see fit, and then to abide by the terms of the resulting contract in the event insurance coverage is triggered,” he wrote, noting the language in the policy is broad enough to confer upon Fidelity a contractual right to subrogation.
 

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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