Indiana Supreme Court Decision Affects Consumer Standing to Claim Damages

In Hoosier Contractors, LLC v. Sean Gardner, the Indiana Supreme Court recently held that a plaintiff must have suffered an additional injury beyond any deceptive act to have standing to collect statutory damages under the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act (Consumer Sales Act) and the Home Improvement Contractors Act (Home Improvement Act).

The Facts of the Case

The facts of the case indicate that Gardner contacted Hoosier Contractors to inspect his roof. Prior to inspection, Hoosier Contractors required Gardner to sign a contract that allegedly contained various violations of both the Consumer Sales Act and the Home Improvement Act. Gardner signed the Hoosier Contractors’ contract. Once Gardner was informed that the inspection and repairs would cost $60,000, Gardner told Hoosier Contractors he would not use them for the repairs, and instead used another company where he paid $18,000 for these repairs.

After Hoosier Contractors filed suit against Gardner for breach of contract, Gardner filed a counterclaim alleging that Hoosier Contractors violated the Consumer Sales Act, arguing that he and other similarly situated Indiana residents were owed statutory damages. The case was ultimately heard by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The Decision

The Indiana Supreme Court held that Gardner and his proposed class of similarly situated Indiana residents who also had signed contracts with Hoosier Contractors during the time it used its allegedly deceptive contract did not have standing to maintain a claim against Hoosier Contractors under the Consumer Sales Act or the Home Improvement Act. The Court explained that Gardner could not meet the requirement of suffering an actual injury because the only injury Gardner ever alleged was the deceptive language in the contract.  Because Gardner did not rely on that deceptive language and contracted with another company to repair his roof, the court held that Gardner suffered no actual injury.

An Additional Opinion

While this case applies only to the Consumer Sales Act and Home Improvement Act, there was an additional opinion written that may hint at potential future restriction of standing in Indiana law. In this additional opinion, concern was expressed that the majority opinion relied too heavily on federal cases to decide this case. Because Indiana law on standing has traditionally not mirrored the federal standing and the federal standing has increasingly restricted standing, the judge writing the additional opinion warned that Indiana law might be evolving toward inhibiting the legislature from defining the rights of Indiana citizens and providing Indiana citizens with remedies when injured.

As Indiana law on standing to bring a lawsuit is in a potential state of evolution, our team of attorneys can be useful to assist in navigating access to Indiana courts. For more information or assistance with achieving resolution to your disputes, please contact Jeffrey W. Ahlers, Michael E. DiRienzo, Steven S. Hoar, or another member of the KDDK Litigation Team.

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