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Opinion rules on 2 issues of first impression

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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.
 

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  1. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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