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Title insurer had duty to defend

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Ticor Title Insurance Co. breached its duty to defend Home Federal Savings Bank on a counterclaim brought by a general contractor on the failed ethanol plant in Cloverdale.

Altra Indiana LLC got a $95.5 million loan from Home Federal Savings Bank to construct the ethanol plant. Home Federal obtained a mortgage on the property and purchased title insurance from Ticor. The policy included a mechanic’s lien endorsement, which obligated Ticor to defend Home Federal in litigation in which a third party asserts a claim …alleging a ... lien …”

In September 2008, F.A. Wilhelm Construct Co. filed a mechanic’s lien on the property after Altra fired the contractor. Wilhelm claimed it was owed $6 million for work on the project. An October 2008 title search by Ticor revealed the lien. Ticor declined to defend Home Federal on its claim that its attempt to foreclose on the plant property took priority over the lien.

Home Federal and Wilhelm eventually settled for $1.8 million, with no contribution from Ticor. Home Federal then sued Ticor alleging the company acted in bad faith and breached its duties to defend against Wilhelm’s counterclaim that its mechanic’s lien had priority or was equal to the mortgage, and failed in not indemnifying the bank for the settlement and attorney fees.

U.S. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ruled in favor of Ticor, relying on the policy exclusion for any “Defects, liens, encumbrances, adverse claims or other matters … created, suffered, assumed or agreed to or by the Insured claimant.”

Ticor did have a duty to defend under the policy, Judge John Tinder wrote in Home Federal Savings Bank v. Ticor Title Insurance Co., 11-3446. The exclusion relied on the by the District Court to grant summary judgment for Ticor does not apply, the judges ruled, rejecting Ticor’s numerous claims. Ticor argued that Home Federal “created, suffered assumed or agreed to the Wilhelm Lien” because the bank “made the conscious decision not to distribute the remaining loan funds and chose not to pay Wilhelm. It also argued the bank breached a duty to Ticor to distribute the entirety of the loan proceedings and that the “created or suffered” exclusion applies because the bank sought to obtain an inequitable windfall.

The judges ordered summary judgment be entered for Home Federal and for further proceedings on the issue of damages to be awarded to the bank.

 

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  1. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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