The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a southwestern Indiana car dealer being sued by a customer for injuries in a car accident under the Indiana Products Liability Act after Chrysler LLC filed for bankruptcy.
In Jeremy K. Warriner v. DC Marshall Jeep a/k/a DC Marshall, Inc., No. 49A02-1106-CT-489, Jeremy Warriner was severely injured in an automobile accident in 2005 after his Jeep Wrangler was hit, causing it to roll over and catch fire. He leased the car from DC Marshall in Sullivan, Ind. Warriner originally sued Chrysler LLC, claiming the company was strictly liable under the IPLA for his injuries due to a design defect of the Wrangler. He also sued DC Marshall, claiming the dealership contributed to his injuries by negligently marketing the Wrangler as safe.
Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 in 2009 and sold its assets to Chrysler Group. Warriner believed this sale meant he could no longer sue Chrysler, and he amended his complaint to go after DC Marshall for strict liability under IPLA and for negligent marketing. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the dealership.
The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, although the judges had differing reasons. Judges John Baker and Carr Darden found the trial court still holds jurisdiction for purposes of the IPLA and Warriner can’t rely on Indiana Code 34-20-2-4 to assert a claim in strict liability against the dealership.
“…a discharge injunction enjoins a creditor or claimant from initiating or continuing a cause of action, but does not divest state courts of jurisdiction over an enjoined action,” wrote Baker. “Indeed, if discharge deprived a state court of jurisdiction, then there would be no need for the permanent injunction that accompanies the discharge.”
While Judge L. Mark Bailey concurred in result with his colleagues, he wrote separate to say he would affirm because Warriner voluntarily dismissed Chrysler LLC from the case before the effective date of liquidation of the company by the bankruptcy court, so he can’t seek recovery from DC Marshall on his products liability claim.
The judges agreed that the evidence didn’t create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the dealership participated in the marketing of Chrysler before it filed for bankruptcy.