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Court must consider loss of use when determining damages in a replevin action

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The Indiana Court of Appeals Tuesday ordered a trial court to factor in the loss of use of a semi-tractor in a replevin action. It emphasized to the lower court that the amount of damages in a replevin action must be limited to a reasonable amount.

Red Husky LLC filed a complaint against the Roy Bayer Trust and trustee Penny Harris seeking replevin of a Kenworth semi-tractor and damages. Red Husky leased the Kenworth to Daniel Bowne and Bowne Transport, but Bowne defaulted on his lease for the Kenworth and stopped paying rent on a building owned by the trust. He abandoned the building, leaving the Kenworth behind. From September 2011 to September 2012, Red Husky tried to retrieve the Kenworth, but Harris refused, believing the trust had a lien against the semi-tractor.

The trial court ruled the trust did not have a valid lien against the semi-tractor and ordered it released. The trial court found Red Husky was entitled to $10,000 in damages due to deterioration during the time Harris refused to release the Kenworth.

“Harris is correct that Red Husky neglected to provide the trial court with a certificate of title to the Kenworth. Nevertheless, we conclude the evidence designated by Red Husky was sufficient to establish its ownership of the Kenworth, and thus the trial court did not err by awarding summary judgment to Red Husky,” Judge Margret Robb wrote in Roy Bayer Trust and Penny Harris v. Red Husky, LLC, 18A02-1307-PL-581. The judges pointed to evidence such as sworn statements claiming ownership, a lease to purchase agreement, and a form filed with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles indicating Red Husky was the lessor of the Kenworth.

They also ruled the $10,000 damages award was supported based on the fair-market value of the Kenworth of $16,000 and that it was sold for $6,000 due to deterioration that occurred while Harris held the semi-tractor for a year.

The COA believed the trial court should have also considered loss of use in its damages award, and ordered the trial court to do so. The judges cited McCready v. Harrison, 1:05-CV-1359-DFH-WTL, 2009 WL 62260 (S.D. Ind. 2009), in which the court held in a replevin action that loss of use damages must be reasonable in relation to the fair-market value of the property.

“We recognize that McCready is not binding precedent, but we believe the rule it espouses is a prudent one and should be considered in determining damages in a replevin action. The amount of damages in a replevin action must be limited to a reasonable amount — both as a general matter and in relation to the fair market value of the property. And although deterioration and loss of use are separate theories of recovery, we believe the total damages award is subject to a requirement of reasonableness,” Robb wrote.

 

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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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