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Denial of summary judgment upheld over questions of car ownership

August 29, 2012

The insurer of a car dealership is not entitled to summary judgment because there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether the dealership or the son of an employee who purchased a car from the dealership owned the car at the time the son hit a bicyclist.

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the denial of Auto-Owners Insurance Co.’s motion for summary judgment on its motion asking the court to determine that it had no liability for the injuries of the cyclist, Edward Foster, under the dealership’s commercial liability policy or a garage liability policy.

Foster was hit by a car driven by Garrett Gaddis. When he was 18, he purchased the car from his father, Scott Gaddis, who was a salesman at the dealership owned by Scott Gaddis’ father. Scott Gaddis “charged” the car to an account he had with the dealership, and the car’s title was never transferred to Garrett Gaddis’ name. He did not register or insure the car and it had a temporary license plate. The day Garrett Gaddis hit Foster while driving, he had taken the car without his father’s permission.

The trial court found material questions as to ownership, possession and control of the car and denied summary judgment. It also denied two motions to strike filed by Auto-Owners regarding “untimely filed evidence” and certain exhibits.

In Auto-Owners Insurance Company v. Bill Gaddis Chrysler Dodge, Inc., Garrett Gaddis and Edward Foster, 18A02-1112-PL-1087, the Court of Appeals found the trial court shouldn’t have allowed the four exhibits designated by Foster, which included Garrett Gaddis’ bank records and his employment records, because Foster’s attempt to certify and authenticate the four challenged exhibits was untimely. However, Auto-Owners didn’t show it was prejudiced by the denial of its motion to strike, Judge Edward Najam wrote. The judges also found the trial court didn’t err in granting Foster’s motion for extension of time to file a response in opposition to summary judgment, as it was timely filed under Ind. Trial Rule 56(C).

There are questions as to who owned the car at the time of the accident and whether Garrett Gaddis is an insured under the terms of the dealership’s garage liability policy, he wrote.  

 

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