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Man unable to prevent settlement agreement

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The man who wanted to purchase a divorcing couple’s farm lacked a present interest in the real estate and couldn’t prevent a settlement agreement between the couple, which led to the husband keeping the farm, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.

In Joseph Meizelis v. Dana Durbin and Debra Durbin, 70A01-1112-DR-598, the appellate court affirmed Rush Circuit Special Judge Daniel Lee Pflum’s denial of Joseph Meizelis’ motion for relief from the agreed judgment between Dana and Debra Durbin on grounds he hadn’t been given notice of the agreement. Meizelis also had filed a lis pendens notice after the Durbins entered into the settlement agreement.

The couple was divorcing, and Meizelis offered to buy the farm. He was even permitted to intervene in the dissolution action. In a March 23, 2011, order, the trial court determined Dana Durbin could keep the farm property if he met certain financial obligations; if not, he could sell it to Meizelis. Dana Durbin filed a motion to correct error, and he and Debra Durbin reached a settlement agreement during the pendency of that motion.

The agreement was similar to the court order, but it did relax some of the obligations Dana Durbin had to meet if he wanted to keep the farm.

Meizelis argued that the agreed entry was void because it had been entered without his knowledge or consent. The trial court found that Meizelis had no present interest in the real estate and his lis pendens notice will be stricken, depending on the outcome of this appeal.

But the Court of Appeals upheld Pflum’s ruling, finding that Meizelis merely made an offer to purchase, but the Durbins never accepted it.

“Meizelis’s position appears to be that his interest arises from the fact that the trial court ordered Dana to sell to him if he could not meet certain financial obligations, but at no point was Meizelis under an affirmative obligation to do anything; the court’s orders were addressed to Dana, not Meizelis,” Judge Terry Crone wrote.

Meizelis could not prevent the Durbins from entering into a settlement agreement regarding the distribution of their property, he continued. The judges sent the case back with instructions to strike the lis pendends notice upon certification of the appellate opinion.

 

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