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Indiana justices answer certified question from federal court

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The Indiana Supreme Court says that a person or business that buys and later sells a wrecked vehicle must apply for a salvage title as required by state law, even if that vehicle’s been sold by the time that certificate is received.

Taking up the case of Larry D. Storie v. Randy’s Auto Sales LLC v. St. Paul Mercury Insurance Company, No. 94S00-0912-CQ-559, justices turned to an issue that came up through a certified question by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that handled a civil action out of Indianapolis in Storie v. Randy’s Auto Sales, LLC, 589 F.3d 873, 881 (7th Cir. 2009).

Storie bought a truck that had been involved in a fatal accident in 2003. The truck’s insurer, St. Paul Mercury Insurance Co., applied for a title as proof of ownership but didn't apply for a salvage title. The truck was sold several times - including by Randy's in Indiana - before St. Paul finally received the title. When Storie learned the truck was involved in the fatal accident and felt he’d been misled about the history, he sued Randy's in federal court in the Southern District of Indiana for failing to apply for a salvage title as required by Indiana Code §9-22-3-11(e).

In February 2009, U.S. District Court Judge William T. Lawrence from Indianapolis granted summary judgment in favor of Randy’s Auto Sales, but the 7th Circuit found the case hinged on the interpretation of how state law applies to Storie’s claim on the salvage title.

In analyzing the case, Indiana’s justices noted the specific focus of the certified question is whether ongoing ownership is required by the statute; they didn’t determine whether the phrase “any other person” in the law applies to auto dealers or whether dealers can rely on insurance companies as gatekeepers – both issues the federal appeals court already ruled on and rejected. Justices analyzed the law’s language to determine that the question’s answer is affirmative.

“While acknowledging that Indiana Code §9-22-3-11 is not free from ambiguity, we find persuasive the legislature’s use of ‘acquiring’ rather than ‘owning,’ the 31 day grace period within which to apply for a certificate of salvage title after receiving the original certificate of title, and the harmful consequences that could result if ‘acquiring’ were construed to mean ‘owning’,” Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the unanimous court. “That is, an entity that purchases and later sells a wrecked vehicle is required to apply for a salvage title under Indiana Code §9-22-3-11(e), even if it no longer continues to own the vehicle when it receives the certificate of title. The relinquishment of ownership of the salvage vehicle does not extinguish the obligation to apply for a salvage title.”

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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