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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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