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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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