Roommate’s liability in early exit from lease rightly decided

September 22, 2015

A woman who appealed a small claims court order against her former live-in boyfriend failed to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that he owed her more money for moving out before their apartment lease was up.

The small claims court awarded Connie Scott-LaRosa $697.50, which the appeals panel affirmed Tuesday in Connie Scott-Larosa v. Frank Lewis, 02A05-1410-SC-486.  The judgment awarded her one-and-a-half months’ rent, finding the lease could have been terminated with notice, and Scott-LaRosa did nothing to mitigate her damages. She also sought attorney fees on appeal, which the appeals panel rejected.

“The trial court’s finding of liability as to Lewis, its finding that Scott-LaRosa failed to mitigate her damages, and its conclusion that Scott-LaRosa was not entitled to attorney’s fees were not clearly erroneous,” the panel ruled in affirming the small claims court.  

The panel did, however, note the court erred in saying it had no authority to order disagreeing parties in this case to negotiate a check for the security deposit. Courts run the risk of voiding checks by failing to act in such situations because banks often are under no obligation to cash checks more than six months old.

“We take the opportunity in this case to remind trial courts of their powers to address certain impasses with respect to the endorsement, delivery, and negotiation of checks and other forms of commercial paper,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote for the panel.



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