The Indiana Court of Appeals found a man’s complaints for compensation against his girlfriend for work he did on two houses, including a house they both lived in, should not have been dismissed. The case was remanded to the trial court.
Craig Neibert and Jody Perdomo were childhood friends who entered into a romantic relationship. When Perdomo’s father died, she received his house and he left Neibert $15,000. Neibert, who worked in construction, helped renovate the father’s house and eventually Perdomo leased it out for $200 a week.
The couple then decided to purchase property and build their dream home. Neibert provided most of the labor for this house as well, but when the house was 90 percent complete the couple broke up. Neibert filed a complaint for damages but during a bench trial Perdomo moved for involuntary dismissal after Neibert said he would examine Perdomo during her presentation of evidence. The trial court granted Perdomo’s motion, then granted Neibert permission to pursue this interlocutory appeal.
In an opinion written by judge Terry Crone, the COA ruled the evidence Neibert presented was enough to survive the dismissal motion and the trial court clearly erred in granting the motion. Neibert rendered a measurable benefit to Perdomo and expected a proprietary interest in the property in exchange. Allowing Perdomo to retain the rental property would be unjust, the COA ruled, and sole ownership of the new house without restitution would also be unjust. Neibert did not intend the services as a gift, and Perdomo accepted the services legally.
The COA also ruled the trial court abused its discretion when it excluded Neibert’s expert witness on the value of Neibert’s services. The trial court had affirmed that his expert was an expert witness, so discarding his testimony should not have been done, and it should have been accepted into evidence.
The case is Craig Neibert v. Jody A. Perdomo, 43A03-1503-CC-99