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High court to hear insurance, drug, murder cases

June 6, 2011

The Indiana Supreme Court accepted three cases June 3, including two cases in which the Indiana Court of Appeals were split in their rulings on a drug case and an insurance case.  

In Lisa Gray v. State of Indiana, No.82S01-1106-CR-328, the majority of appellate judges reversed Lisa Gray’s conviction of Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana, finding the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gray constructively possessed the drug. The majority cited Gee v. State, 810 N.E.2d 338, 340 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), to support their decision.

Judge Cale Bradford dissented and disagreed with how the additional circumstances in Gee were used by the majority to determine intent to maintain dominion and control over the drug. He also believed that the state produced evidence that Gray was in close proximity to the marijuana and it was in plain view. That should be more than enough evidence to find she knew of the drug, he wrote.

In Allied Property and Casualty Insurance Co. v. Linda Good and Randall Good, No. 85S04-1106-CV-326, the lower appellate court was split on the definition of “ever” on a home insurance application when it came to whether the homeowners’ insurance coverage was ever “declined, cancelled, or non-renewed.”

A March 2003 fire destroyed Linda and Randall Good’s home. They sued for breach of contract after the insurer held off paying the claim because of the investigation of the fire. Allied countersued, arguing that Linda misrepresented her insurance cancellation history on its application regarding whether she ever had insurance coverage denied or cancelled. The jury awarded more than $1 million in damages to Linda, but the Court of Appeals reversed, finding Linda’s misrepresentation on the application was material.

Judge L. Mark Bailey dissented, finding the application field about past insurance cancellations was unclear as to whether “ever” included all insurance companies or just Allied.

The justices also accepted Brice Webb v. State of Indiana, No. 71S05-1106-CR-329, in which Brice Webb appealed his conviction of murder for shooting his girlfriend. In a not-for-publication decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction, finding the trial court didn’t err in refusing to instruct the jury on reckless homicide as a lesser included offense to murder; it didn’t err in allowing the state to charge Webb as an habitual offender beyond the statutory period allowed for amending charges; and it didn’t abuse its discretion in admitting the videotape of Webb’s police interview.

In addition to these cases, the justices also took Richmond State Hospital, et al. v. Paula Brattain, et al., No. 49S02-1106-CV-327.

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