Judgment of $246K for Carmel landlord upheld in business lease dispute

A Carmel landlord was properly awarded damages of nearly $250,000 plus attorney fees in a dispute over unpaid office rent, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

The appellate court found no grounds for disturbing a Hamilton Superior Court’s judgment in favor of the landlord.

Southard operated Abelard LLC and Restor Co., and in 2015 he signed a five-year commercial property lease for space at 525 W. Carmel Drive. The lease included monthly rent that escalated each year from about $3,750 in year one to more than $5,400 in the fifth year.

By September 2018, landlord Keltner Property had sued, alleging at that point that Southard had failed to pay for the prior month and was in the process of vacating the premises. After a bench trial, the trial court rejected Southard’s claims that he didn’t sign the lease and that he was unaware that Restor had relocated to the property in 2015, among other things. “The Court cannot find truth and/or veracity in much of the Defendant Brian Southard’s testimony,” the trial court found, awarding Keltner total damages of more than $246,000 plus attorney fees.

The COA affirmed Thursday in Brian K. Southard v. Keltner Property Group LLC, 19A-PL-2560.

“Based on the evidence and the 2015 lease, we cannot say the record contains no facts to support the finding that there was an understanding by the parties at the time of the agreement that Southard was a tenant under the 2015 lease or that we are left with the firm conviction that a mistake has been made,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the appellate panel. “We conclude the trial court’s findings and conclusions are not clearly erroneous.”    

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