Supreme Court to hear arguments in duty to defend, armed burglary cases

Indiana Supreme Court justices will hear two additional oral arguments this month, including cases regarding insurance coverage for a pair of Kokomo bars and the reversal of an armed burglary conviction.

Members of the high court will hear arguments at 9 a.m. on Feb. 24 in William Ebert, Michelle Ebert, Cora Ebert, Alexandra Ebert, Dan the Man, LLC, Daniel Parks, and D&D Saloon, LLC v. Illinois Casualty Company, 22S-PL-00008.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana ruled in that case that insurer Illinois Casualty Company had a duty to defend two Kokomo bars and their owners after they were sued following a traffic accident.

The incident left a family injured by an intoxicated motorist who had just consumed alcohol at one of the bars. The drunk customer had been ejected from one of the bars after getting into an altercation with another patron before getting in his truck and striking the family’s car.

Although the Howard Superior Court granted Illinois Casualty’s motion for summary judgment, citing the insurance policies’ alcohol exclusion, the COA reversed. It concluded that the negligence theory based on allowing the customer to leave the premises despite knowledge of his intoxication does not require proof that the bars “caused and contributed” to the intoxication.

Justices will then hear the case of Zachary Fix v. State of Indiana, 22S-CR-00007, at 10 a.m. on Feb. 24.

There, the COA overturned Zachary Fix’s conviction for Level 2 felony burglary while armed with a deadly weapon after he broke into an Alexandria home and robbed its owner.

Fix was unarmed when he entered the home, but he later obtained the owner’s firearm and used it against him by striking the man with the gun. Fix was convicted of burglary while armed with a deadly weapon, robbery and theft.

But the COA found that Indiana Code § 35-43-2-1 concerns what happens at the threshold of a premises, not inside. It reversed in part and remanded for the Madison Circuit Court to vacate Fix’s conviction for burglary and enter a conviction of a lesser-included form of burglary.

Supreme Court oral arguments will be held in person and will be streamed online.

The Indiana Supreme Court courtroom is open to the public with limited seating to maintain social distancing. Masks are required in the courtroom regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.

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