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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today, re breach of real estate contract

In Gayle Fischer v. Michael and Noel Heymann, a 9-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rush writes:

This is the second appeal in protracted litigation over the breach of a real-estate sales contract. The first appeal established that Buyers breached the contract when they unreasonably demanded that Seller fix a minor electrical problem as a condition of purchase. In this second appeal, we granted transfer to consider whether the trial court acted within its discretion in calculating Seller’s damages. Both parties appealed the trial court’s findings regarding Seller’s efforts to mitigate her damages. Seller argues that her efforts were reasonable and justify a full award. Buyers argue Seller failed to mitigate her damages in two ways: 1) by failing to respond to their demand for electrical repairs and thus preserve the contract, and 2) by failing to accept a substitute offer to purchase the property after the agreement fell through. The trial court disagreed with Buyers’ first argument but agreed with the second, and reduced Seller’s damages accordingly. We hold the trial court was within its discretion to reach this conclusion, and therefore affirm the award of damages and attorney fees. * * *

The record supports the trial court’s findings and conclusions on Fischer’s duty to mitigate. The trial court acted within its discretion by finding that Fischer could have mitigated her damages by selling the condo in 2007 instead of waiting until 2011, and in refusing to find that her duty to mitigate required yielding to the Heymanns’ breach. The trial court also acted within its broad discretion in determining reasonable attorney fees and costs based on the results that Fischer achieved in this litigation. We therefore affirm the trial court’s award of $93,972.18.

Dickson, C.J., and David and Massa, JJ., concur.
Rucker, J., concurs in result.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 17, 2014 11:46 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions