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Injured man who sued estate can only recover insurance policy limits

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A man who was injured in an auto accident with a woman who died the following year cannot recover any funds from her estate, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. But the trial court didn’t err in denying the estate’s motion to amend the jury award, because it is a valid judgment despite that the man can only recover funds available under the policy limits of the woman’s insurance policy.

Paige Winn and Michael Davis were in a car accident on Oct. 12, 2007. Winn died June 8, 2008, from causes unrelated to the accident. Davis asked for an estate to be opened and then filed a complaint on Sept. 25, 2009, claiming Winn negligently operated her car. He sought to recover for personal injuries and lost wages.

A jury awarded Davis $60,000, which the trial court entered into judgment. The estate sought to correct the judgment to say that Davis could not collect from the estate because he didn’t timely file his claim and that the recovery was limited under the amount available through Winn’s insurance liability policy. The trial court denied the estate’s motion.

The Court of Appeals found Davis’ claim against the estate was not timely filed within nine months of Winn’s death, as outlined in I.C. 29-1-14-1, so he cannot recover any money from the estate.

“However, pursuant to the clear language of Indiana Code section 29-1-14-1(f) and the Indiana Supreme Court’s holding in (Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. v. Richie, 707 N.E.2d 992 (Ind. 1999)), Davis may recover the funds available under the limits of Winn’s insurance liability policy from Winn’s insurance carrier,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in John M. Mayer, Jr., as Special Administrator of the Estate of Paige R. Winn, Deceased v. Michael. W. Davis, 22A01-1212-CT-570.  

The appeals court declined to conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion to amend the judgment because the judgment is valid despite the fact that any portion of the judgment in excess of Winn’s insurance liability policy limits can’t be recovered from the estate.

“The Estate has pointed to no authority suggesting that a judgment is void merely because it is unenforceable, and we find none,” he wrote.

 

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