Huber v. Hamilton (IN)

Summary: Under the Statute of Frauds, modifications of a written contract for the purchase of land must to be in writing.

Huber v. Hamilton, 33 N.E.3d 1116 (Ind. App. 2015).


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Facts: On November 15, 2007, Roger Hamilton sold commercial real estate to Terry Huber in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The real estate sold for $150,000 with a down payment of $20,000. The monthly installments were to be $1,132.44 with 6.5% interest until November 30, 2010, at which point, the remaining balance would be paid in full. The contract specifically stated that Huber would receive title to the properties by paying and fully performing all of his covenants and agreements.

As the due date for the balloon payment approached, Huber discussed with Hamilton about extending the date. In return, Huber would pay an extra $300 a month. Hamilton claims that this $300 acted as paying off a penalty rather than the principal amount. Huber never paid the balloon payment, and Hamilton sent a written notice demanding payment within 30 days. Huber never made the payment and the matter went to court.

In February 2014, the trial court could not determine the details of the parties' oral agreement because it found that the evidence was unpersuasive both ways. Thus, the court determined that the Statute of Frauds applied and the oral modification was unenforceable. Huber defaulted and breached the land contract because he failed to make the balloon payment when it was originally due. The additional $300 a month reduced the principal. Hamilton was entitled to receive the remaining balance plus attorney fees. Finally, the written contract should be foreclosed, and the property sold at a Sheriff’s sale. Huber appealed.


Holding: Affirmed.  The court addressed several issues raised by Huber, all of which were defeated. First, Huber claimed the Statute of Frauds did not apply to this case. The court disagreed and held that it is long standing law in Indiana that land conveyances are subject to the Statute of Frauds and any contract seeking to convey an interest in land must be in writing. Additionally, any modification to the original contract also needed to be in writing. Therefore, the parties’ oral agreement was unenforceable because it was not in writing.

Second, Huber raised a promissory-estoppel argument claiming that the 34 additional payments of $300 were made in reliance on Hamilton’s promise to extend the balloon payment. Hamilton countered and asked to enforce a $10,000 penalty for extending the balloon payment. The court determined that neither had met the heavy burden of proving promissory estoppel. Because the trial court could not determine the details of the parties' agreement, neither party could prove that promissory estoppel applied because there was no “promise” to enforce. As such, the trial court properly concluded that Huber breached the written land contract when he failed to make the balloon payment by the original due date.

Huber also took issue with the attorney fees. However, the contract stated that he would have to pay Hamilton’s legal expenses in such an event.


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By: ATG Underwriting Department | Posted on: Thu, 12/03/2015 - 4:35pm