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Appeals court affirms judgment in family land-contract dispute

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A trial court properly ruled that an insurance company owed no duty to a mother who sold property on contract to her son and daughter-in-law, but the son and daughter-in-law who collected proceeds from the policy do.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Tuesday affirmed the judgment of Howard Circuit Judge Lynn A. Murray in a 28-page order that found an insurance company was not liable for failing to name the mother on a home insurance policy despite her ownership.

In Nancy A. Missig v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company, Andre M. Missig, and Autumn Missig, 34A02-1212-CT-1002, the court did find that Andre and Autumn Missig did bear liability to Nancy Missig, who had sold a Kokomo home to them on a contract under which they agreed to pay a monthly sum plus taxes and insurance.

When the home burned and was a total loss, State Farm paid claims to Andre and Autumn totaling $270,000, but the couple failed to make good on the land contract. The trial court found, and the appeals court affirmed, that State Farm owed no duty to the mother, but that she was entitled to a lien on a home in Windfall that Andre and Autumn purchased with insurance proceeds. The lien of more than $153,000 plus interest represents the balance due Nancy on the land contract for the Kokomo home.

“We conclude that the trial court properly entered judgment for Nancy against Andre and Autumn for the full unpaid balance of the land contract including interest, plus a lien and constructive trust as to the Windfall Property,” Judge John Baker wrote for the panel that included judges Ezra Friedlander and Nancy Vaidik. “We also conclude that the trial court properly determined that State Farm was not obligated to pay additional proceeds to Nancy because it already paid the required funds to Andre and Autumn, the named insureds under the policy.

“Indeed, Autumn and Andre could have shared the proceeds they received from State Farm with Nancy, but chose not to do so,” Baker wrote. The court also noted “the trial court observed that Nancy did nothing to confirm that her interest in the property was protected.”
 

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  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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