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Bokori v. Martinoski

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 15, 2017

Jason Bokori, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Jasmina Martinoski, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Lake Superior Court. The Honorable Michael Pagano, Magistrate. Cause No. 45D09-1512-SC-2356

          Attorney for Appellant Brian R. Gates Jones Obenchain, LLP South Bend, Indiana.

          BAILEY, JUDGE.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Jason Bokori ("Bokori") collided with Jasmina Martinoski's ("Martinoski") leased car, totaling it. Insurance payments covered Martinoski's medical expenses and a portion of the cost of her totaled vehicle, but a balance remained on the lease. Martinoski sued Bokori for the balance in small claims court, and the court entered judgment in her favor. Bokori now appeals.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Issue

         [¶3] Bokori presents one issue for our review, whether the small claims court committed clear error in determining fair market value and awarding damages.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶4] On December 22, 2013, Bokori and Martinoski, driving separate vehicles, were involved in a collision. Martinoski's leased 2013 Toyota Corolla was totaled in the accident.

         [¶5] Martinoski had leased the vehicle with financing through Toyota Financial Services ("Toyota Financial") just five months prior to the collision. The balance on the financing agreement was $22, 676.52 at the time of the collision. Martinoski's insurer, Nationwide Mutual Insurance ("Nationwide"), paid Toyota Financial $17, 530.44 to purchase the totaled vehicle. After that payment, Martinoski still owed $5, 146.08 under her vehicle financing agreement, an amount Martinoski believed would be paid by Bokori's insurer, Progressive Insurance ("Progressive"). However, Toyota Financial pursued collection of that amount and late fee charges against Martinoski when Progressive did not pay the difference.

         [¶6] Martinoski sued Bokori and Progressive in small claims court to recover the amount she still owed under the lease agreement plus the late fee charges and court costs. In her notice of claim, Martinoski alleged that Bokori was responsible for the accident, and that he and Progressive owed her the balance remaining on her lease plus late fees and court costs totaling $6, 000.00.

         [¶7] During cross-examination of Martinoski, Progressive's attorney tendered Nationwide's market report prepared by C.C.C. Valuescope Claims Services. However, there was no proponent for the document, and Martinoski did not recognize it. The small claims court, while acknowledging there was no proponent for the exhibit, admitted the document without objection. The report shows the date of the accident, that Martinoski was the lessee of the totaled vehicle, and correctly identifies the vehicle identification number for the Corolla. The report, which was used in negotiation between Progressive and Nationwide in reaching a settlement on what would be paid to Toyota for Martinoski's car, concludes that after conducting research into the local market, the fair market value of the vehicle at the time of the accident was $17, 312.00.

         [¶8] The small claims court entered judgment in favor of Progressive because there was no contractual relationship between it and Martinoski, and, as such, Martinoski could not sue Progressive directly. The court then found Bokori was completely responsible for the accident. The trial court recognized that it had admitted into evidence the report used by Progressive and Nationwide in their negotiations as to the value of Martinoski's vehicle. However, the trial court concluded that "with no proponent for it, I'm not satisfied that it's sufficient to [establish fair market value]." Tr. pp. 30-31. Having also determined that Bokori failed to establish any affirmative defense, the trial court entered judgment against him in the amount of $5, 446.08-the balance of Martinoski's indebtedness on the lease, her late fees, and court costs.

         [¶9] ...


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