After You Agree to a Judgment, That Is It.

After You Agree to a Judgment, That Is It. We have talked often in this blog about Indiana courts enforcing agreements that have been negotiated between parties, and not interfering with those agreements absent the agreements being illegal or there being some fraud involved in reaching that agreement. The Indiana Court of Appeals recently reaffirmed this principle, albeit in a context that is somewhat different than what business people may be accustomed. In situations where one party owes another party money, and a lawsuit has been filed to collect that money, it is not unusual for those parties to enter into an agreement whereby there will be an “agreed judgment” filed with the court, which the court then consents to and enters as a matter of record.  Those agreed judgments often will involve a payment plan for the amounts that are owed.  In the recent case, the parties had done just that.  The agreed judgment called for the defendant to pay to the plaintiff $400.55 plus an additional $450 in attorneys’ fees.  Four years after the agreed judgment was entered, and presumably because the defendant had not paid what she had agreed to pay, the plaintiff filed motions with the court seeking to garnish the defendant’s wages to satisfy the agreed judgment.  At that time, the defendant then appealed the entry of the agreed judgment.  Through some procedural maneuverings, and even though by this time the underlying debt had already been paid, a new trial was ordered and a judgment was entered against the plaintiff after the plaintiff did not appear for the new trial.  That judgment was then...

Just When You Think You Know the Law…

Just When You Think You Know the Law . . . Regular readers of this blog know that we have spent a fair amount of time giving examples of how courts in Indiana regularly state that there is a strong public policy to enforce contracts.  In doing so, the court’s goal is to determine the intent of the parties at the time they made the contract, beginning with the plain language of the contract, reading it in context, and then determining if any part of the contract is ambiguous.  If it is ambiguous, then the court will construe the terms in the contract to determine and give effect to the intent of the parties at the time of the contract.  Otherwise, the court will enforce the plain language of the contract.  In a recent case that is pending in the United States District (Federal) Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the Court acknowledged this basis principle of Indiana law, but ultimately determined that despite the plain language of a settlement agreement from a previous case, the settlement agreement and release could not be enforced against a plaintiff. In other words, it would not enforce the contract despite the fact that the Court admitted the contract was not ambiguous and the intent of the parties was clear. The case involved the second of two class actions in which the plaintiffs had alleged violation of certain constitutional rights.  The plaintiffs were involved in both cases, the first of which had been settled through the terms of a settlement agreement.  The court noted, and it is important for the readers to...

How Much is this Going to Cost?

How Much is this Going to Cost? That question is one that attorneys often hear from existing and new clients who are involved in matters for which they are seeing the attorney.  While some projects are capable of being estimated in terms of the cost, in litigation, where at least two parties are arguing over something that is important to each of them, because no one party has control over what the other one will do, it is often nearly impossible to estimate “How much it is going to cost.” A perfect example of this was recently reported here.  While the particulars of the case are not necessarily important for today’s purposes, the significance is that there was a legal fight that lasted approximately 38 years concerning some property in Madison County, Indiana.  Imagine in 1978 trying to answer the client’s question of “How much is this going to cost?”  Thirty eight years later, the real estate is going to be sold at an auction. In another relatively recent case, two landowners fought over a strip of land 35’ X 100’, which had been valued at $890.  That litigation lasted 3 years and involved 2 separate appeals.  It is fair to say that each party incurred far more than $890 in fees, not to mention the value of their own time invested in the fight. We have written extensively before about how slow litigation can proceed; the true cost of that litigation; and the toll it can take on the parties involved.  These cases are yet further examples of how unpredictable, time consuming, and undoubtedly expensive litigation can be. ...

Ag Lending: Could Selling Crops Be a Crime?

Ag Lending: Could Selling Crops Be a Crime? In an agriculture heavy state such as Indiana, lenders necessarily will have a certain portion of its lending dedicated to agricultural and farming operations.   There are certain protections for lenders under both Indiana law and federal law, which, while easy to follow, may not often be employed by lenders. The Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”) was written to provide guidance concerning commercial transactions, and has been adopted in some fashion throughout the United States, including Indiana.  States are free, however, to adopt certain other provisions or deviations from the UCC.  As a general rule under the UCC, someone who buys a product in the “ordinary course” of the seller’s business buys that product free from any security interest or lien that a lender may have attached to that product.  This is true even if the lien is perfected and the buyer knows about the lien. Historically, there was an exception to this rule for “farm products”, which includes crops.  Therefore, under the UCC, a wholesale buyer of a farmer’s crops bought those crops subject to any lender’s lien. Congress, however, passed a federal law in 1985 to override this UCC exception, and stated that a buyer who in the ordinary course of business buys a farm product from a seller engaged in farming operations buys that farm product free of any lender’s lien. As with every rule, there are exceptions, and this one is no different.  This same federal law provides that the buyer of farm products will take the farm products subject to the lender’s lien if the buyer has been...

Priority of Purchase-Money Mortgage

Priority of Purchase-Money Mortgage Under Indiana law, a “purchase-money mortgage” is given as security for a loan used by the mortgagor (buyer) to acquire legal title to a property.  Indiana Code § 32-29-1-4 provides that “[a] mortgage granted by a purchaser to secure purchase-money has priority over a prior judgment against the purchaser.”  Therefore, if a mortgage is considered a purchase-money mortgage, it has priority over a previously recorded judgment lien. This issue was recently addressed by the Indiana Court of Appeals. In Amici Resources, LLC; et al. v. The Alan D. Nelson Living Trust; et al. (http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/01191602cjb.pdf), Sabine Matthies (“Matthies”) obtained a judgment against Solid Foundation Investment Properties, Inc. (“SFIP”) in December 2012.  In April 2013, SFIP purchased real estate in Indianapolis.  SFIP financed the purchase of the property through a loan from The Alan D. Nelson Living Trust (the “Trust”), and SFIP executed a promissory note and mortgage in favor of the Trust to evidence and secure repayment of that loan.  At the time of the closing, SFIP also entered into an agreement with Amici Resources, LLC (“Amici”) whereby Amici agreed to finance renovations and improvements to the property with a loan to be secured by a second mortgage against the property. Matthies brought an action to enforce her judgment lien, and argued that her judgment lien should be deemed “senior”, or “first”, among all of the liens. Matthies argued that the Trust’s mortgage was not a purchase-money mortgage because it was signed the day before SFIP closed on the purchase of the real estate.  If the Court had agreed with Mattheis, her lien would have been...

Mediation? Arbitration? Same Thing, Right?

Mediation? Arbitration? Same Thing, Right? There is often some confusion on the part of business clients concerning the differences between mediation and arbitration.  Some people tend to use the terms interchangeably, but in actuality mediation and arbitration are quite different. In a mediation, typically the parties hire a third party “neutral” person who, while she may be a lawyer, does not need to be in order to help facilitate settlement discussions.  Sometimes the attorneys involved will suggest a mediation as a way to have their clients listen to a neutral third party describe the strengths of the opponent’s case and the weaknesses of their own client’s case so that the parties can try to reach a resolution before incurring significant costs.  As previously noted in this blog, you are not sacrificing anything legally by engaging in mediation or other forms of settlement negotiations.  That is because if the case does not settle at mediation, any judge or jury who ultimately tries the case in court will never hear what offers of compromise may have been made by the parties. It is important to remember that in a mediation, the mediator makes no decisions.  Rather, all of the ultimate decisions about whether to settle, and for how much, are left to the parties.  The mediator cannot force a settlement on anyone.  The mediator can make suggestions, and the parties can agree on different ways to mediate.  However, ultimately it is up to the parties to decide if the case will settle or not.  This is one of the big advantages of mediation, because the parties control their own destinies.  After...
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