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Indiana justices answer certified question from federal court

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The Indiana Supreme Court says that a person or business that buys and later sells a wrecked vehicle must apply for a salvage title as required by state law, even if that vehicle’s been sold by the time that certificate is received.

Taking up the case of Larry D. Storie v. Randy’s Auto Sales LLC v. St. Paul Mercury Insurance Company, No. 94S00-0912-CQ-559, justices turned to an issue that came up through a certified question by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that handled a civil action out of Indianapolis in Storie v. Randy’s Auto Sales, LLC, 589 F.3d 873, 881 (7th Cir. 2009).

Storie bought a truck that had been involved in a fatal accident in 2003. The truck’s insurer, St. Paul Mercury Insurance Co., applied for a title as proof of ownership but didn't apply for a salvage title. The truck was sold several times - including by Randy's in Indiana - before St. Paul finally received the title. When Storie learned the truck was involved in the fatal accident and felt he’d been misled about the history, he sued Randy's in federal court in the Southern District of Indiana for failing to apply for a salvage title as required by Indiana Code §9-22-3-11(e).

In February 2009, U.S. District Court Judge William T. Lawrence from Indianapolis granted summary judgment in favor of Randy’s Auto Sales, but the 7th Circuit found the case hinged on the interpretation of how state law applies to Storie’s claim on the salvage title.

In analyzing the case, Indiana’s justices noted the specific focus of the certified question is whether ongoing ownership is required by the statute; they didn’t determine whether the phrase “any other person” in the law applies to auto dealers or whether dealers can rely on insurance companies as gatekeepers – both issues the federal appeals court already ruled on and rejected. Justices analyzed the law’s language to determine that the question’s answer is affirmative.

“While acknowledging that Indiana Code §9-22-3-11 is not free from ambiguity, we find persuasive the legislature’s use of ‘acquiring’ rather than ‘owning,’ the 31 day grace period within which to apply for a certificate of salvage title after receiving the original certificate of title, and the harmful consequences that could result if ‘acquiring’ were construed to mean ‘owning’,” Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the unanimous court. “That is, an entity that purchases and later sells a wrecked vehicle is required to apply for a salvage title under Indiana Code §9-22-3-11(e), even if it no longer continues to own the vehicle when it receives the certificate of title. The relinquishment of ownership of the salvage vehicle does not extinguish the obligation to apply for a salvage title.”

 

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  1. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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