Trial Court Erred in Dismissal of Boyfriend’s Implied Contract and Unjust Enrichment Claims

Case: Craig Neibert v. Jody A. Perdomo
by Mike Kohlhaas, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

HELD: Trial court erroneously granted involuntary dismissal of Boyfriend’s implied contract and unjust enrichment claims against Girlfriend.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY:
Boyfriend and Girlfriend began a romantic relationship in 2000. Girlfriend lived in Florida at the time, but the following year moved to Indiana to reside with Boyfriend in his home. The parties subsequently spent a few weeks in Florida fixing up Girlfriend’s house to prepare it for sale.

In 2003, Girlfriend’s father passed away, leaving her cash, his house, and a 65-acre plot of land. The parties together began to renovate the inherited house. Girlfriend put up most of the money for materials, while Boyfriend did most of the labor. After completion, Girlfriend rented out the house, but did not pay Boyfriend for his work nor share the rental proceeds with him.

In 2006, the couple decided to build their “dream home” on the 65-acre parcel that Girlfriend had inherited. The project took five years to become habitable, with Boyfriend listed as its contractor and doing much of the work. As the parties lived in the unfinished home, Boyfriend continued working on finishing it. In 2011, with the house nearly finished, the couple ended their relationship and Boyfriend moved out.

Boyfriend subsequently sued girlfriend for implied contract and unjust enrichment. At the hearing, Boyfriend presented evidence of the cohabitation, and his expectation for co-ownership of the properties. At the conclusion of Boyfriend’s case, Girlfriend moved for a 41(B) involuntary dismissal. The trial court subsequently granted the motion, issuing an interlocutory order dismissing Boyfriend’s implied contract and unjust enrichment claims. Boyfriend appealed and his interlocutory appeal was accepted.

The Court of Appeals reviewed Indiana’s well-developed case law on cohabitation related claims. The Court noted that Boyfriend had testified that he performed much of his labor based upon an expectation of co-ownership of the properties. There was also third party testimony which attributed comments to Girlfriend that Boyfriend would get half the farm, and that she referred to it as “our property.” Applying the evidence Boyfriend presented to the elements of unjust enrichment and implied contract claims, “we conclude that [Boyfriend] presented uncontroverted evidence sufficient to survive involuntary dismissal . . . .”

The interlocutory appeal was remanded for a completion of the trial on the merits.

To view the text of this opinion in its entirety, click here: Craig Neibert v. Jody A. Perdomo

 

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James A. Reed and Michael R. Kohlhaas of Bingham Greenebaum Doll represent clients in a wide spectrum of relationship transition and wealth planning matters, including premarital agreements, estate planning, cohabitation, separation, divorce (especially involving high net worth individuals and/or complex asset issues), custody, parenting arrangements, adoption, and domestic partnerships. Bingham Greenebaum Doll, a multidisciplinary law firm serving regional, national, and international clients, is the fourth-largest law firm in Indiana. The firm’s main practices include corporate, property, litigation, labor, government law, and personal services law. Visit the firm’s website at www.bgdlegal.com.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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