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Ex-racer loses appeal on Porsche ownership

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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."

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  1. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  2. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  3. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  4. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  5. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

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