ILNews

Ex-racer loses appeal on Porsche ownership

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued its take on an ownership dispute over a classic 1979 Porsche on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation's Hall of Fame Museum.

Affirming now-senior U.S. Judge Larry McKinney in Indianapolis, the three-judge Circuit panel rejected the claims by a former racer who claimed that he'd loaned, not donated, the car and that it should be returned to him. The case is Reginald D. Whittington, Jr., v. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation Inc, No. 08-3352.

Former driver Don Whittington - who comes from a racing family and had raced in five Indianapolis 500s and made many other high-profile races through the 1970s and '80s - sued IMS over the Kremer Racing Porsche 935 K3, which he'd driven to win the 1979 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race in France. Whittington delivered the car to the museum in the 1980s for display, but in 2004 he claimed the car should be returned because it was only on loan. The IMS refused to return the car because it had recorded the transaction as a donation in kind from Whittington and his brother Bill.

He sued for tortious conversion and replevin of the automobile, arguing in part that a conversation with former IMS grounds superintendent Charles Thompson, now deceased, had the authority to make that deal with him on behalf of the foundation. Though the car insurance was paid by the museum, various testimony and documents showed differing accounts about who the actual owner was through the years. Whittington hadn't maintained much contact with the foundation since the late '80s, when he pled guilty to federal money-laundering charges and spent 18 months in prison. At the time, he was connected to a scandal where many drivers financed their racing activities with drug-smuggling proceeds.

In 2008, Judge McKinney held a one-day bench trial and ruled against Whittington. He described the case largely a battle of witnesses who provided conflicting testimony, finding in favor of the IMS because Whittington failed to prove he owned the classic car.

The 7th Circuit agreed, pointing out that Judge McKinney made a salient and proper note of the fact that Whittington's post-transaction behavior was inconsistent with the car being on loan - mainly because he made no effort to communicate with the foundation between the 1980s and the 2004 demand.

The court decided Judge McKinney didn't clearly err in finding that Whittington failed to prove a property right for the vehicle, nor did the judge make a mistake in placing the burden of proof on Whittington as Indiana law requires. The court didn't address the donative intent, because Judge McKinney hadn't made any finding on that point.

"We are handicapped, as is Whittington, by the lack of documentation with respect to the nature of the transaction between him and the Foundation," Circuit Judge Michael Kanne wrote. "As observed by a member of this court at oral argument, the lesson for Whittington should be that an unwritten contract is not worth the paper it isn't written on."

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

  3. Perhaps we should also convene a panel of independent anthropological experts to study the issues surrounding this little-known branch of human sacrifice?

  4. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

ADVERTISEMENT