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Cruisin', Inc. v. Springleaf Fin. Servs. of Indiana, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 17, 2014

CRUISIN', INC., d/b/a CRUISIN' AUTO SALES, Appellant,
v.
SPRINGLEAF FINANCIAL SERVICES OF INDIANA, INC., f/k/a AMERICAN GENERAL FINANCIAL SERVICES, Appellee

APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON SUPERIOR COURT. The Honorable Alison T. Frazier, Judge. Cause No. 39D01-1103-CC-304.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: WILLIAM JOSEPH JENNER, Jenner, Pattison, Hensley & Wynn, LLP, Madison, Indiana.

VAIDIK, C.J., and NAJAM, J., concur.

Page 890

OPINION

BROWN, Judge

Cruisin', Inc., d/b/a Cruisin' Auto Sales (" Cruisin'" ), appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of Springleaf Financial Services of Indiana, Inc., f/k/a American General Financial Services, Inc. (" Springleaf" ).[1] Cruisin' raises two issues which we revise and restate as whether the court erred in entering judgment for Springleaf based upon the language of an endorsement placed on a check. We affirm and remand.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The facts most favorable to the trial court's judgment reveal that on May 13, 2010, Jennifer George and Cruisin' executed a purchase order wherein George

Page 891

agreed to purchase a 1998 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, vehicle identification number (" VIN" ) 2G1WW12MSW9131950. The next day, George entered into a loan agreement (the " Loan Agreement" ) with Springleaf in which Springleaf extended credit to George in the amount of $3,142.65. Pursuant to the agreement, Springleaf issued a check (the " Check" ) in the amount of $2,500.02 to George and Cruisin' for the purpose of effecting the purchase of the Monte Carlo.[2] The Loan Agreement stated that the loan was to be secured by the Monte Carlo.

George presented the Check to Cruisin' which was accompanied by a letter (the " Letter" ) to Cruisin' from Springleaf instructing Cruisin' to " [p]lease list us as lienholder on the title for the above vehicle . . . ." Plaintiff's Exhibit D. The Letter identified the Monte Carlo by make, model, and VIN, and it provided Springleaf's address. In addition to the Letter's instruction to Cruisin', the Check contained an endorsement (the " Endorsement" ) placed by Springleaf which stated:

ENDORSEMENT of this check acknowledges receipt of PAYMENT IN FULL for the motor vehicle described below and the title for said vehicle is hereby GUARANTEED to the maker of said check.
Make Chevy Year 1998 Motor Number -2G1WW12MSW9131950[3]
You are authorized to negotiate this check only (1) when account is paid in full (2) when all liens have been satisfied and (3) when title has been mailed to the payor.

Id.

Cruisin' placed Springleaf as the first and only lienholder on the title to the Monte Carlo, but instead of mailing the title to Springleaf, it gave the title to George believing she would take it to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (" BMV" ) to register the vehicle and subsequently deliver the title to Springleaf. Cruisin' negotiated the Check. George did not register the vehicle nor file the title with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (" BMV" ). She defaulted on the Loan Agreement after making one payment, and her whereabouts are unknown.

On March 30, 2011, Springleaf filed a complaint against George and Cruisin'. On June 9, 2011, Springleaf filed a motion for summary judgment. On August 24, 2011, the court entered a default judgment as to George in the amount of $4,313.77, plus court costs and interest. On March 25, 2013, the court denied Springleaf's summary judgment motion as to Cruisin', and on June 14, 2013, it held a bench trial in which evidence consistent with the foregoing was presented. On September 11, 2013, the Court entered a judgment in favor of Springleaf as follows:

The Court, having heard the evidence and the arguments of counsel, and having taken this matter under advisement, now finds that a binding contract was created between [Springleaf] and [Cruisin'] when [Cruisin'] negotiated a check issued by [Springleaf] for payment of a 1998 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The check contained a restrictive endorsement in which the defendant guaranteed title to the vehicle in exchange for the loan proceeds. [Springleaf] further gave [Cruisin'] written instructions to list it as the lienholder on the title.
By negotiating the check and receiving the proceeds, [Cruisin'] accepted the benefit of [Springleaf's] financing and also ...

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