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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. Major social engineering imposed by judicial order well in advance of democratic change, has been the story of the whole post ww2 period. Contraception, desegregation, abortion, gay marriage: all rammed down the throats of Americans who didn't vote to change existing laws on any such thing, by the unelected lifetime tenure Supreme court heirarchs. Maybe people came to accept those things once imposed upon them, but, that's accommodation not acceptance; and surely not democracy. So let's quit lying to the kids telling them this is a democracy. Some sort of oligarchy, but no democracy that's for sure, and it never was. A bourgeois republic from day one.

  2. JD Massur, yes, brings to mind a similar stand at a Texas Mission in 1836. Or Vladivostok in 1918. As you seemingly gloat, to the victors go the spoils ... let the looting begin, right?

  3. I always wondered why high fence deer hunting was frowned upon? I guess you need to keep the population steady. If you don't, no one can enjoy hunting! Thanks for the post! Fence

  4. Whether you support "gay marriage" or not is not the issue. The issue is whether the SCOTUS can extract from an unmentionable somewhere the notion that the Constitution forbids government "interference" in the "right" to marry. Just imagine time-traveling to Philadelphia in 1787. Ask James Madison if the document he and his fellows just wrote allowed him- or forbade government to "interfere" with- his "right" to marry George Washington? He would have immediately- and justly- summoned the Sergeant-at-Arms to throw your sorry self out into the street. Far from being a day of liberation, this is a day of capitulation by the Rule of Law to the Rule of What's Happening Now.

  5. With today's ruling, AG Zoeller's arguments in the cases of Obamacare and Same-sex Marriage can be relegated to the ash heap of history. 0-fer

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