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COA: Storage fees capped per statute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that the owner of a car involved in a fatal accident must pay storage fees to a towing company, but those fees must be capped at $1,500.

In Northwest Towing & Recovery v. State of Indiana, No. 18A02-0905-CV-409, Northwest Towing & Recovery appealed the denial of its motion to correct error after the trial court capped its storage-fee lien at $1,500 based on Indiana Code Section 32-33-10-5(b). The company had the lien against Frances Brinkley, the owner of the car involved in a fatal accident caused by her son. Brinkley cross-appealed arguing she shouldn't have had to pay anything to have her car returned.

The accident happened Oct. 8, 2006, and Northwest - based on a contract with the city of Muncie - towed the vehicle and stored it at a rate of $20 a day. The car remained in storage until the court ordered on Oct. 28, 2008, that the car be returned to Brinkley.

The trial court concluded Brinkley should be responsible for storage from the time of her son's sentencing in August 2007 until the car was released, but because of the statutory cap, she would only have to pay $1,500, plus other miscellaneous costs totaling $250.

Northwest argued the trial court order can't stand because Brinkley wasn't a party to the criminal proceedings, violating Indiana Trial Rule 17(A). The Court of Appeals decided that Northwest waived the issue because it invited the alleged error and never objected under Trial Rule 17(A) until the trial court ruled against it, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

The appellate court also affirmed that I.C. Section 32-33-10-5(b) is applicable and capped the storage costs at $1,500. Northwest argued that I.C. 9-22-5-15(a) could apply - which has no caps - but that statute is only applicable when work or storage is done at the request of the owner, wrote the chief judge. Brinkley never requested her car be stored at Northwest - the Muncie Police Department originally requested it and her son asked for continued storage until his trial so the car could be preserved for evidence.

To allow Northwest to proceed under I.C. 9-22-5-15(a) "would permit Northwest to proceed with a lien that would effectively ignore the specific limitations and circumvent the statutory cap that became effective in 2005," wrote Chief Judge Baker.

The Court of Appeals also affirmed the order that Northwest title the car back to Brinkley.

The appellate judges ruled Brinkley should be responsible for the $1,500 in storage fees even though her son caused the fees to be incurred. She never requested the car returned to her after her son was sentenced, so the trial court could reasonably infer she permitted the continued storage of the car.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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