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Supreme Court kicks ‘buyer beware’ vs. disclosure case back to trial court

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A Lake County dispute over whether a buyer or seller is responsible for a few thousand dollars worth of home defects is headed back to the trial court after a divided Indiana Supreme Court ordered a legal do-over.

Justice Steven David wrote for the majority that the trial court applied the incorrect standard in ordering the sellers to pay the buyers a little more than $13,000 for repairs that had to be made after closing. The sellers represented in disclosure forms that they knew of no defects, and the buyers relied on that when they ordered a cursory inspection that turned up no problems.

The trial court found that the issues raised in the complaint “should have been obvious” to the sellers, a standard that David wrote was lower than “actual knowledge.” “This means that the trial court here applied the wrong legal standard to the facts, even assuming that those facts are sufficiently supported by the record. The judgment is therefore clearly erroneous,” David wrote in Barbara A. Johnson and William T. Johnson, Both Individually and as Trustees of the Barbara A. Johnson Living Trust Dated 12-17-1996 v. Joseph Wysocki and M. Carmen Wysocki, 45S04-1211-CT-634.

“We reverse the trial court and remand for new findings pursuant to this opinion,” David wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Justice Brent Dickson and Justices Mark Massa and Loretta Rush.

Justice Robert Rucker concurred in part and dissented in part. Agreeing that the trial court applied the wrong legal standards to facts of the case, and that Indiana’s Disclosure Statutes don’t trump the common law “caveat emptor” principle, Rucker said the trial court nevertheless decided the case on the facts and the matter didn’t merit revisiting.

“It is certainly true the trial court did not use the magic words ‘actual knowledge,’” Rucker wrote in the one-paragraph dissent of a 16-page opinion. “But as recounted in the Facts section of the majority opinion, the record before us is more than sufficient to support the conclusion that the Johnsons had such knowledge of the various defects prior to the time they sold the property to the Wysockis. I would therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court in all respects and put this litigation to rest.”

 


 

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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