Vendor in land-sale contract did not, as a matter of law, lack duty of care to third parties

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Appellant-Plaintiff Christine R. Scheible (“Scheible”) appeals the trial court’s grant of Appellee-Defendant Fred Jackson’s (“Jackson”) Motion for Summary Judgment.  Scheible raises the sole issue of whether the trial court erred in granting Jackson’s Motion for Summary Judgment.  This case presents an issue of first impression; namely, under what conditions can the vendor in a land-sale contract detach himself from liability for the condition of the land.

(slip op. at 12-13):  We cannot say as a matter of law that Jackson lacked a duty of care to Travis. Therefore, the trial court erred in granting Jackson’s Motion for Summary Judgment. We remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings.  Reversed and remanded. 

Key Analysis (slip op. at 12):  Control, rather than title, is the critical consideration in determining whether the vendor in a land-sale contract owes a duty to third parties. Whether Jackson exercised the requisite degree of control over the Property is a question of fact.
Baker, C.J., dissenting:  I respectfully dissent. I do not believe that there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding Jackson’s control of the Property. Furthermore, I believe that the result reached by the majority is extraordinarily bad public policy . . .

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Bose McKinney & Evans LLP is a business law firm, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, serving both publicly held and privately held businesses, governmental entities and high-growth industries. Our clients include Fortune 100 companies, international manufacturers, national and regional financial institutions, agribusinesses, sports teams, university-incubated start-ups, media, utilities, cities and schools, to name a few. We strive to build strong relationships with our clients as key business advisors, to exceed expectations in the quality of our work, to be knowledgeable about our clients’ businesses and sectors, to be responsive to service needs and to continually seek to improve the delivery of client services. Our ultimate focus is on our clients.
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