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Split justices uphold ruling for insurer in truck crash that killed 3

January 29, 2019

Justices of the Indiana Supreme Court decided in a 3-2 vote last week to let stand a ruling that an insurance company owes no duty to victims of a truck crash in which the driver knowingly operated the vehicle with faulty brakes.

Justices Steven David and Christopher Goff were in the minority of justices who would have granted transfer and heard the appeal in ONB Insurance Group, Inc., et al. v. Amy Jones, et al., 40A01-1707-CT-1513.  

In July, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the Jennings Circuit Court’s denial of summary judgment for Old National Insurance and its representative, Joseph E. Kenworthy, in a lawsuit brought by the estates of victims of a truck crash in 2011.

The case arose after a driver for Old National’s insured, C&K Transport Inc., stopped at a weigh station in Ohio and discovered the truck’s brakes were not working. The driver called C&K owner William Hackney, who told the driver to drive the truck to Mitchell, Indiana, on a route that did not have weigh stations. The driver refused, and Hackney drove the truck on the route himself without first making any repairs.

That night, Hackney’s truck struck a vehicle driven by Edward Megel on U.S. 50 in which Megel’s wife, JoAnn, and granddaughter, Darcy, were passengers. Edward and Darcy died in the crash and JoAnn died from injuries sustained in the crash less than two weeks later.

The Court of Appeals reversed, applying the foreseeability test from Goodwin v. Yeakle’s Sports Bar and Grill, Inc., 62 N.E.3d 384 (Ind. 2016).

Justices also split 3-2 on three other cases denied transfer last week. They were:

• Marques D. Trice v. State of Indiana18A-CR-697. Justices let stand an Indiana Court of Appeals ruling from November reversing a Marion Superior Court order to destroy Marques Trice’s handgun after he was convicted of Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license. The COA held that Trice’s carrying the weapon with an expired carry permit did not amount to “misuse” of a firearm. Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Goff would have heard this case.

Indiana Behavioral Health and Human Services Licensing Board v. Jenna Thomas, 79A02-1712-PL-2904. The Indiana Court of Appeals in August reversed the Tippecanoe Circuit Court, which voided the licensing board’s suspension of Jenna Thomas’ clinical social worker license because the board did not act within 90 days of an administrative hearing. The COA held the 90-day period in the Administrative Orders and Procedures Act was “directory rather than mandatory,” and that the trial court abused its discretion in vacating the board’s suspension order. Justices David and Geoffrey Slaughter were in the minority voting to hear Thomas’ appeal in this case.

Whitesell Precision Components, Inc. v. Autoform Tool & Manufacturing, LLC, 18A-PL-848. In a business dispute, the Indiana Court of Appeals in August affirmed an injunction entered in Marion Superior Court regarding the cost and supply of parts Whitesell supplied to Autoform to be used in a manufacturing process. Rush and David would have granted transfer. Justices heard Whitesell on petition to transfer last week. 

Justices denied transfer in 19 cases last week and granted one that was decided Wednesday Q.D.-A., Inc. v. Indiana Department of Workforce Development, 19S-EX-43 — a case regarding the classification of “drive-away drivers” as independent contractors.

Weekly Supreme Court transfer lists may be viewed here.

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