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Reversal: Trust bears liability for builder’s nonpayment despite lien notice discrepancies

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A trust that won summary judgment at the trial court against a supplier of building materials for construction of a home on Lake Michigan got the opposite result from an appeals court Friday. The trust is liable, even though it paid builders who failed to reimburse the supplier for materials provided on credit.

A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment granted by LaPorte Superior Judge Jennifer Koethe in favor of the Margaret Lynn West trust. The panel remanded with an order to grant summary judgment for the company that supplied material in Von Tobel Corporation, Individually, and d/b/a Von Tobel Lumber & Hardware; and Von Tobel Lumber & Home Center, Inc. v. Chi-Tec Construction & Remodeling, Inc.; John F. Ziola, Jr.; Et Al.
46A03-1301-MI-18.

At issue is a mechanic’s lien Von Tobel recorded on the property that it sought to foreclose for nonpayment. The trial court ruled the lien was invalid because it designated “the wrong claimant” in the pre-lien notice.

“The Trust received the Pre-lien Notice from ‘Von Tobel Lumber & Home Center, Inc.’ and the Lien Notice from ‘Von Tobel Corporation,’” Judge James Kirsch wrote for the unanimous panel that also included Judge Patricia Riley and Chief Judge Margret Robb.

“The Trust does not contend that it was misled or confused by the discrepancy,” Kirsch wrote, noting the difference in names was minimal, didn’t undermine statutory policy regarding notice, and did not cause prejudice to the property owner or any third party. Indeed, the panel held that notice regarding the lien could have been used to assure “the party may take measures and direct funds accordingly.”

The trust paid homebuilder Chi-Tech Construction and its owner John Ziola, but the opinion says those payments weren’t forwarded to Von Tobel. Chi-Tech and Ziola since have declared bankruptcy, according to the court.

“Here, the property owner had notice of the potential lien early in the construction process, but failed to take appropriate measures to see that funds were properly directed. We reverse the summary judgment entered in favor of the trust and remand with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of Von Tobel Corporation.”


 
 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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