COA scraps title for flood truck Louisiana says was crushed

Gregory Schneider took a photo of his Ford F-250 truck to court in Terre Haute to show it had not been crushed, despite what the state of Louisiana says. But that wasn’t enough for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles or the Indiana Court of Appeals, which on Friday scrapped a trial court order that Schneider be issued a salvage title.

Schneider purchased the truck at a salvage auction in 2017 as a flood-damaged vehicle, but when he couldn’t locate the title, he asked a court to order the BMV to issue a new salvage title. He had a Terre Haute police officer examine the vehicle and certify that the “salvage restoration conforms to Indiana Code [ch.] 9-22-3.” But the BMV pointed to a Louisiana record indicating the vehicle with the same vehicle identification number had been “crushed.” Over the bureau’s objection, the Vigo Superior Court ultimately ordered the BMV to issue a salvage title.

“At the review hearing, the trial court stated, ‘[Schneider] said he wants a salvaged title or whatever.  I mean, he just wants to drive the car which is understandable[.] … I’ll order the BMV to issue him a salvaged title and then, let’s just see what … they do this time,’” the record shows. BMV appealed, winning a reversal of that order in Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles v. Gregory Schneider, 19A-MI-107.

“The trial court understandably wanted to offer Schneider some avenue to be able to drive his vehicle.  However, other than Schneider’s assertion, there is no evidence that this vehicle meets the definition of a flood damaged vehicle such that it could have been issued a salvage title,” Judge Margret Robb wrote for the panel.

“Moreover, even if this vehicle did meet the definition of a flood damaged vehicle, it appears that the plain language of section 9-22-3-18 would still prohibit it from being titled if it also bears a particular brand. Indiana Code section 9-22-3-18 states, ‘A vehicle that has been designated “JUNK”, “DISMANTLED”, “SCRAP”, “DESTROYED”, or any similar designation in another state or jurisdiction shall not be titled in Indiana.’ (Emphasis added.)

“… As Schneider has not filed a brief offering any argument for why ‘crushed’ is not a ‘similar designation’ to those in the statute and as ‘crushed’ is, in part, defined as ‘destroyed,’ we conclude the BMV has made a prima facie showing of error. … The trial court acted contrary to law in ordering the BMV to issue a certificate of salvage title to Schneider’s vehicle that had been branded ‘crushed’ by another state. The judgment of the trial court is reversed,” the panel concluded.

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