Insurer loses appeal over matter litigated elsewhere

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An insurance company may not recover in Marion Superior Court claims paid for an auto accident after a St. Joseph court ruled a driver was not at fault in the crash.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a Marion Superior order to set aside an earlier entry of summary judgment in favor of the insurance company in Geico Insurance Company, as subrogee of Ralph Heitkamp v. Dianna Graham, 49A02-1310-CT-898.

Diana Graham and Janet Heitkamp were involved in an auto accident after which Heitkamp sued in a South Bend small claims court in an attempt to recoup her deductible. The court, though, found Heitkamp was at fault for the crash. Geico was notified of the ruling, according to the record, but later sued Graham in Marion Superior Court seeking to recover more than $7,500 it paid to Heitkamp, again claiming Graham was at fault.

Representing herself in Marion Superior Court, Graham presented no evidence or the prior ruling in her favor during a hearing at which the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Geico. Counsel later filed a motion to set aside, which was granted.

“Geico’s Marion Superior Court claim against Graham was derivative of Heitkamp’s St. Joseph county small claim against Graham,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the panel. “Accordingly, the trial court did not err in granting Graham’s motion to set aside the judgment on the grounds that Geico’s current claim against her is barred by the claim preclusion branch of the doctrine of res judicata.”


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