Pearman v. Hale Abstract Company, Inc., 102220 INCA, 20A-PL-733

Docket Nº:20A-PL-733
Opinion Judge:Bradford, Chief Judge.
Party Name:Curtis Pearman, Appellant-Plaintiff, v. Hale Abstract Company, Inc., Appellee-Defendant.
Attorney:APPELLANT PRO SE Curtis Pearman Lake Placid, Indiana ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE John C. Trimble Michael R. Giordano Lewis Wagner, LLP Indianapolis, Indiana
Judge Panel:Najam, J., and Mathias, J., concur.
Case Date:October 22, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Indiana

Curtis Pearman, Appellant-Plaintiff,


Hale Abstract Company, Inc., Appellee-Defendant.

No. 20A-PL-733

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 22, 2020

Pursuant to Ind. Appellate Rule 65(D), this Memorandum Decision shall not be regarded as precedent or cited before any court except for the purpose of establishing the defense of res judicata, collateral estoppel, or the law of the case.

Appeal from the Shelby Circuit Court The Honorable Trent E. Meltzer, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 73C01-1406-PL-18.

APPELLANT PRO SE Curtis Pearman Lake Placid, Indiana

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE John C. Trimble Michael R. Giordano Lewis Wagner, LLP Indianapolis, Indiana


Bradford, Chief Judge.

Case Summary

[¶1] This case involves Curtis Pearman's attempt to purchase certain real estate in Shelbyville, Indiana, known as the Tippecanoe Press Building complex ("the Tippecanoe Press complex"). Pearman agreed to pay the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("FDIC") $5000 for a package that he believed included three parcels of land. Pearman, however, actually only purchased two parcels as the FDIC only held title to two of the three parcels. Pearman subsequently filed suit against Hale Abstract Company, Inc. ("Hale"), arguing that in completing title work regarding the Tippecanoe Press complex prior to his purchase of the property, Hale negligently misrepresented that the FDIC held title to all three parcels.

[¶2] The trial court determined that Hale, in the course of its business, supplied false information to Pearman and that Pearman justifiably relied upon the information supplied by Hale. However, the trial court determined that Pearman did not suffer a pecuniary loss as a result of the misrepresentation. The trial court alternatively determined that even if Pearman had suffered a pecuniary loss, any loss suffered by Pearman was no greater than $16, 692.00 and Pearman was not entitled to any additional recovery because he had been made whole by insurance proceeds he received from Stewart Title Guaranty Company ("STGC"). Pearman contends on appeal that the trial court erred in determining that he was not entitled to additional recovery. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶3] This is the second appeal relating to issues that arose from Pearman's purchase of the Tippecanoe Press complex. The underlying facts relating to the sale and the issues that arose therefrom were set forth in our opinion in the prior appeal: Originally, the Wickizer Family Trust owned the real estate, which consisted of four separate parcels. Shelby County Bank subsequently obtained title to three of these parcels. The first parcel was a thirty-thousand-square-foot commercial complex; the second parcel was a private alley; and the third parcel ("Parcel 3"), which is at issue here, contained a garage and parking spaces. Shelby County Bank was later placed in receivership, with the [FDIC] acting as receiver.

In 2013, Pearman sought to purchase the three parcels owned by FDIC. On August 28, 2013, [Hale] procured a title commitment from STGC regarding the three parcels. However, Parcel 3 had been sold to a nearby church by Shelby County Bank prior to its being placed in receivership. Pearman eventually paid FDIC $5, 000 for a quitclaim deed to what he believed contained all three parcels. And STGC issued a title policy on October 16, 2013, for all three parcels.

When Pearman learned that he did not have title to Parcel 3, he submitted a claim under the policy for Parcel 3 to STGC on January 10, 2014. On January 14, 2014, STGC sent Pearman notice that it had appointed a claims counsel to review his claim. On June 24, 2014, STGC's claims counsel offered to settle the matter for $8, 000 in exchange for a release from liability regarding Parcel 3.

Pearman did not accept the offer but filed a complaint against Hale and STGC on June 27, 2014. The complaint sought a declaratory judgment that STGC had a duty to indemnify Pearman under the Policy and that STGC negligently misrepresented the status of the title to Parcel 3. The complaint also included a claim for breach of contract based on the Policy, a claim of damages as a result of the defendants' negligent misrepresentation, and a claim for attorney fees.

STGC and Hale obtained an appraisal of Parcel 3, which determined that the value of the other parcels without Parcel 3 was diminished by $30, 000. The defendants then offered to settle the case for this amount, but Pearman again declined the offer. Eventually, STGC made a litigation decision to file a counterclaim for a declaratory judgment, asking the trial court to approve the tender of the $70, 000 policy limits to Pearman and end any further litigation, effectively interpleading the policy limits.

On December 19, 2016, Pearman filed a motion for summary judgment, and on January 17, 2017, STGC filed a response and a cross-motion for summary judgment. The trial court held a hearing on both motions on January 18, 2017. On March 22, 2017, the trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law granting STGC's motion for summary judgment, thereby entering an award of the $70, 000 policy limits to Pearman. The court's summary judgment order otherwise denied Pearman's motion for summary judgment as to its claims against STGC.

Pearman v. Stewart Title Guar. Co., 108 N.E.3d 342, 345-46 (Ind.Ct.App. 2018), trans. denied.

[¶4] As it related to Hale, the trial court found that Pearman had established that (1) "Hale, in the course of its business, supplied false information for the guidance of [Pearman] in his business transaction;" (2) "Hale failed to exercise reasonable care or competence in obtaining or communicating the information to" Pearman; and (3) Pearman "justifiably relied upon the information supplied by" Hale. Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 36. The trial court further found that "[t]he issues of the type of damages, if any, recoverable by [Pearman] and against [Hale] shall be determined at a later date." Appellant's App. Vol. II p. 37.

[¶5] Pearman appealed the trial court's order pertaining to STGC. We affirmed the trial court's order concluding as follows: The trial court did not err in granting summary judgment in favor of STGC on Pearman's claim of negligent misrepresentation because Pearman is in contractual privity with STGC, and a claim of negligent misrepresentation is therefore unavailable to him. Nor did the trial court err in granting summary judgment in favor of STGC on Pearman's claim of insurer bad faith because Pearman did not present a claim of bad faith in his complaint. The trial court did not err in declining Pearman's request for attorney fees, and Pearman's claim for punitive damages cannot be presented for the first time on appeal.

Pearman, 108 N.E.3d at 350-51.

[¶6] Pearman and Hale subsequently filed briefs in the trial court arguing the issue of damages.1 On January 22, 2020, 2 the trial court issued an order, in which it incorporated its previous March 22, 2017 order by reference, and found as follows: 4. This Court has previously found that [Pearman] is only entitled to his out-of-pocket loss and is not...

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