Opinion rules on 2 issues of first impression

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals was faced with two issues of first impression in one opinion – the meaning of Indiana Code Section 27-9-3-34(d) and whether a party is entitled to a jury trial for disputes concerning claims in liquidation proceedings.

In Carol Cutter, as the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Insurance v. Classic Fire & Marine Insurance Co. v. J.W., et al., No. 49A05-0906-CV-315, Indiana company Classic Fire & Marine Insurance issued a general liability policy to Alaska corporation Allvest in 1995 for one year. During its policy coverage, Allvest let CFM know that women were going to file claims of sexual molestation against an Allvest employee. In 1998, the Indiana Department of Insurance’s petition for liquidation against CFM was granted.

Allvest’s claim for indemnification from CFM under the policy was identified as disputed claim 83, which the Allvest bankruptcy estate sold to the women’s attorney. Allvest was placed in involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Alaska several years after the women filed their claim. The women, known as the J.W. claimants, got final judgments against Allvest totaling more than $1.22 million before Allvest went into bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court awarded them more than $430,000.

The J.W. claimants wanted a jury trial on the disputed claim and argued they were entitled to full faith and credit in the Indiana insolvency proceedings based on the Alaska judgments. In 2006, the Alaska bankruptcy court approved more than $555,000 from Allvest’s bankruptcy estate for the J.W. claimants, which the Department of Insurance as liquidator objected to based on double recovery. The trial court agreed with the liquidator and dismissed disputed claim 83.

The appellate court ruled that the J.W. claimants’ claim against Allvest and Allvest’s claim against CFM are two separate, distinct claims, so a distribution on the disputed claim 83 won’t result in a double recovery. The trial court erred in its decision.

With respect to judgments or orders entered against an insured, such as Allvest in CFM’s liquidation proceedings, Indiana Code Section 27-9-3-34(d) says “The following do not need to be considered as evidence of liability or the measure of damages: A judgment or order against an insured or the insurer entered after the date of filing a successful petition for liquidation.”

The liquidator argued the J.W. claimants have to prove their claim against Allvest from scratch; the J.W. claimants argued the Alaska judgments are entitled to full faith and credit. Since it’s first impression for Indiana courts, the judges looked to Montana and Pennsylvania cases, which held a judgment or order against an insured filed after a successful petition for liquidation against the insurer isn’t conclusive of liability or the quantum of damages. In CFM’s liquidation proceedings, the Alaska judgments aren’t conclusive evidence of liability or the measure of damages, the COA judges concluded.

The judges noted that the statute doesn’t prohibit a judgment or order against an insured or an insurer entered after the date of filing a successful petition for liquidation from being considered as evidence of liability or the measure of damages.

“The particular facts of each case, the legal issues involved, and the Indiana Rules of Evidence should be used to determine whether such a judgment or order may be considered as evidence of liability or the measure of damages,” wrote Judge Terry Crone.

In the other matter of first impression, the appellate judges ruled that a party isn’t entitled to a jury trial for disputes concerning claims in liquidation proceedings. I.C. Section 27-9-3-37(b) prescribes a hearing before a judge, not a jury.

The case was remanded for further proceedings.


Post a comment to this story

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
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.