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Injured man who sued estate can only recover insurance policy limits

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A man who was injured in an auto accident with a woman who died the following year cannot recover any funds from her estate, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. But the trial court didn’t err in denying the estate’s motion to amend the jury award, because it is a valid judgment despite that the man can only recover funds available under the policy limits of the woman’s insurance policy.

Paige Winn and Michael Davis were in a car accident on Oct. 12, 2007. Winn died June 8, 2008, from causes unrelated to the accident. Davis asked for an estate to be opened and then filed a complaint on Sept. 25, 2009, claiming Winn negligently operated her car. He sought to recover for personal injuries and lost wages.

A jury awarded Davis $60,000, which the trial court entered into judgment. The estate sought to correct the judgment to say that Davis could not collect from the estate because he didn’t timely file his claim and that the recovery was limited under the amount available through Winn’s insurance liability policy. The trial court denied the estate’s motion.

The Court of Appeals found Davis’ claim against the estate was not timely filed within nine months of Winn’s death, as outlined in I.C. 29-1-14-1, so he cannot recover any money from the estate.

“However, pursuant to the clear language of Indiana Code section 29-1-14-1(f) and the Indiana Supreme Court’s holding in (Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. v. Richie, 707 N.E.2d 992 (Ind. 1999)), Davis may recover the funds available under the limits of Winn’s insurance liability policy from Winn’s insurance carrier,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in John M. Mayer, Jr., as Special Administrator of the Estate of Paige R. Winn, Deceased v. Michael. W. Davis, 22A01-1212-CT-570.  

The appeals court declined to conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion to amend the judgment because the judgment is valid despite the fact that any portion of the judgment in excess of Winn’s insurance liability policy limits can’t be recovered from the estate.

“The Estate has pointed to no authority suggesting that a judgment is void merely because it is unenforceable, and we find none,” he wrote.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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