Indiana Appellate Court decision (January 27, 2015).
A homeowner refused to remove wooden pallets that were propped up against a tree in his backyard as directed by the HOA’s property manager who informed the homeowner that, because the pallets were visible from the road and /or the neighbor’s driveway, they were in violation of the HOA’s CC&Rs Declaration.The HOA filed an action for an injunction compelling the homeowner to remove the pallets which was granted by the trial court which ordered the homeowner to immediately remove the wooden pallets and any and all other refuse and rubbish from his property. The court also awarded the HOA costs and attorney fees.
The homeowner appealed the trial court judgment contending that the evidence presented in the trial court did not support the judge’s findings and the resulting judgment. The appellate court stated that the trial court judgment would not be disturbed unless it was clearly erroneous– meaning that there was no evidence to support the findings, the findings do not support the judgment, or the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard. Considering these factors, the appellate court concluded that the trial court’s decision was not clearly erroneous and the granting of the injunction was appropriate.
In reviewing the trial court’s award of attorney fees to the HOA, the appellate court stated that an award of attorney fees pursuant to a contract provisions (the Declaration), must be reasonable and the determination of reasonableness is left to the discretion of the trial judge. The appellate court further stated that the award of attorney fees by the trial court would only be found erroneous if it was clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances of the case. Because the homeowner had not met his burden of proving the attorney fee award was erroneous, the fee award was also affirmed subject to an adjustment for an amount that was improperly included in the award.The HOA was also awarded additional costs and attorney fees incurred in connection with the post-trial proceedings.
See case decision: Rong_Fan_v._Summerlakes_Prop