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Rexroad v. Greenwood Motor Lines, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 8, 2015

Cathy Rexroad, et. al., Appellants-Plaintiffs,
v.
Greenwood Motor Lines, Inc. d/b/a R Carriers, R& L Carriers Shared Services, LLC, and Richard C. Maples, Sr., Appellees-Defendants,

Interlocutory Appeal from the Marion Circuit Court. The Honorable Louis F. Rosenburg, Judge. The Honorable Mark A. Jones, Commissioner. Cause No. 49C01-1303-CT-9775.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Stephen L. Williams, Kyle T. Ring, Williams Law Firm, Terre Haute, Indiana.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: Robert B. Thornburg, Maggie L. Smith, Timothy L. Karns, Frost Brown Todd LLC, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Bradford, Judge. May, J., and Mathias, J., concur.

OPINION

Bradford, Judge.

Case Summary

[¶1] Appellee-Defendant Richard C. Maples, an Ohio resident, was employed as a truck driver by Appellant-Defendant R& L Carriers, an Ohio limited liability company. The tractor-trailer driven by Maples was owned by Appellee-Defendant Greenwood Motor Lines, Inc. (" Greenwood" ). On February 14, 2012, while in the course of his employment, Maples was driving on an Indiana interstate when he lost control of his vehicle and struck another tractor-trailer resulting in the death of Arnold Rexroad, Sr. (" Rexroad" ), an Illinois resident. Several members of Rexroad's family were named as special administrators of his estate and filed a negligence action against defendants. Ultimately, Greenwood admitted that it was entirely at fault for the accident. Plaintiffs requested that the trial court apply Illinois law to the only remaining unsettled issue, damages. The trial court denied plaintiffs' request and chose to apply Indiana law. We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] On February 14, 2012, Rexroad was driving a tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in Hendricks County, Indiana when he began experiencing mechanical difficulties, pulled his tractor-trailer onto the right shoulder, and called for a tow truck. Lindsey Measel, an Indiana resident, was travelling on the same interstate and, as Rexroad's tractor-trailer was being loaded on to the tow truck, Measel slowed her vehicle in the left-hand lane. Maples, who was driving a tractor-trailer directly behind Measel, was forced to change lanes in order to avoid striking Measel's vehicle. As a result, Maples lost control of his tractor-trailer and collided with Rexroad's vehicle. Rexroad died as a result of his injuries. At the time of the accident, Maples was operating his tractor-trailer in the course of his employment with Greenwood.

[¶3] Rexroad was survived by his wife, Cathy Rexroad, his children, Greta Rice, Cody Rexroad, Theresa Sutter, Janice Linder, and Arnold Rexroad, Jr., and his step-children, Shannon Bennett and Mark Gibson (collectively the " Plaintiffs" ). On October 4, 2012, Plaintiffs, who are all Illinois residents, were named as special administrators of Rexroad's estate. Plaintiffs brought suit against Greenwood alleging negligence in the operation of Maples's vehicle resulting in Rexroad's death. Measel was also named as a defendant in the complaint.

[¶4] The parties met during pre-trial conferences on November 10, 2013 and May 16, 2014. On June 16, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a memorandum with the trial court requesting that the trial court apply Illinois law to the case. On July 1, 2014, following a hearing on the choice-of-law question, the trial court determined that Indiana law would apply. The following day, during the final pre-trial conference, Greenwood admitted to being solely at fault for the accident and death of Rexroad. Greenwood's stipulation to being at fault included a condition that it was effective only so long as Indiana law applied. Plaintiffs reached a settlement with Measel who was then dismissed from the case. Also on July 2, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a motion requesting the trial court to reconsider its ruling on the choice-of-law issue. On July 18, 2014, the trial court denied Plaintiffs' motion to reconsider. This interlocutory appeal follows.

Discussion and Decision

[¶5] The only issue raised in this appeal is whether the trial court properly determined that Indiana law applies. Such an issue is purely a question of law. Appellate courts evaluate questions of law de novo and owe no deference to a trial court's determination of such questions. Seel v. State, 739 N.E.2d 170, 172 ...


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