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Couple should be allowed truck title

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of a couple in a vehicle title dispute, ruling the pair should be allowed to take the title free of an auto auction's security interest in the truck.

At issue in Indianapolis Car Exchange, Inc. v. Randall and Christina Alderson,  No. 80A02-0902-CV-116, is whether the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for the Aldersons and ordering the BMV to release a lien held by Indianapolis Car Exchange.

The truck in question was purchased by Mike Thurman at ICE through his car dealership. ICE had a financing agreement with Thurman despite the dealership's cash flow problems and ICE's insurance company refusing to cover transactions between ICE and the dealership.

Immediately following the purchase, Thurman sold the truck to Bonnie Chrisman of Lightly Used Trucks at another auction house; Chrisman arranged to purchase the truck for Randall Alderson. Thurman never paid ICE for the truck nor informed them of the sale. After learning of the sale, ICE asked the BMV to place a lien in its favor on the truck's title. The auto auction refused to release the lien and the Aldersons refused to return the truck.

In the Aldersons' complaint against ICE, both parties filed for summary judgment; the trial court granted it in favor of the Aldersons.

The Court of Appeals examined Indiana Code Sections 26-1-9.1-320(a), 26-1-1-201(9), and 26-1-2-403(1), which deal with buyers, sellers, and security interests. For a buyer to take free of a security interest created by the seller, the buyer may have knowledge that a security interest exists but may not have knowledge that the sale violates the rights of another person, according to the statutes.

ICE argues there are genuine issues of material fact in the case, including whether Chrisman and the Aldersons knew the sale violated ICE's rights. It pointed to the fact Chrisman told the Aldersons that Thurman "was running on Danny Hockett money," who is the owner of ICE, and that the sale took place at another auction after the first sale. But this evidence doesn't establish a genuine issue of material fact for trial, wrote Judge Michael Barnes.

"In the absence of designated evidence showing that Chrisman or the Aldersons had knowledge that the sale of the truck violated ICE's rights, Chrisman and the Aldersons were buyers in the ordinary course of business," he wrote.

Also, ICE did object to the sale, but only because Thurman defaulted, not because he sold the truck.

"ICE entrusted the truck to Thurman by delivering the truck to him and acquiescing in his retention of possession of the truck with the expectation that Thurman would sell the truck to someone else. This is the very circumstance in which Indiana Code Section 26-1-2-403(2) was intended to apply," Judge Barnes wrote.

Whether Indiana Code Sections 26-1-9.1-320(a) or 26-1-2-403(2) are read separately or in conjunction with one another, the Aldersons should be allowed to take title free of ICE's security interest in the truck, the appellate court ruled.

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