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Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles v. Majestic Auto Body

Court of Appeals of Indiana

June 19, 2019

Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Majestic Auto Body, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Morgan Superior Court Trial Court Cause Nos. 55D03-1711-SC-1206 & 55D03-1711-SC-1207 The Honorable Sara Dungan, Judge, The Honorable Terry E. Iacoli, Magistrate Judge

          Attorneys for Appellant Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana

          Aaron T. Craft Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Riley, Judge.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Defendant, Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), appeals the trial court's partial denial of its motion for relief from judgment as well as the subsequent nunc pro tunc orders requiring it to issue salvage titles to two vehicles owned by Appellee-Plaintiff, Majestic Auto Body (Majestic).

         [¶2] We reverse.

         ISSUE

         [¶3] BMV presents one issue on appeal, which we restate as: Whether the trial court abused its discretion by partially denying its motion for relief from judgment.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶4] In November 2017, Majestic purchased a 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan and a 2014 RAM 2500 pickup truck from Insurance Auto Auctions in Texas. Majestic paid $1, 648 for the 2013 Dodge minivan and $18, 273 for the 2014 RAM truck. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) showed that in October 2017, Hurricane Harvey damaged the vehicles. Consequently, the state of Texas designated both vehicles as junk and issued salvage titles. The NMVTIS printouts indicated that the vehicles are "incapable of safe operation for use on the roads or highways and [have] no resale value except as a source of parts or scrap." (Appellant's App. Vol. II, p. 46). The NMVTIS report also noted that the vehicles can never be "titled or registered." (Appellant's App. Vol. II, p. 46).

         [¶5] As per Majestic's request, on November 10 and 13, 2017, the Indiana State Police Department (State Police) inspected both vehicles. For the 2013 Dodge minivan, the State Police reported that it had a "[n]one rebuild-able [sic] title, however[, ] vehicle shows zero signs of damage on non-roadworthyness [sic]." (Appellant's App. Vol. II, p. 20). As for the pickup truck, the State Police's observations were, "FLOOD VEH[ICLE]. CONTAINS NO DAMAGE. APPEARS TO BE IN PERFECT CONDITION." (Appellant's App. Vol. II, p. 25).

         [¶6] Based on the favorable inspections, on November 30, 2017, Majestic filed notices of claim in the Morgan County small claims court under Causes 55D03-1711-SC-1206 (Cause Number 1206) and 55D03-1711-SC-1207 (Cause Number 1207), seeking to obtain a clean title to the minivan and truck, respectively. A hearing to address both claims was set for January 10, 2018.

         [¶7] BMV received a summons for each Cause. On December 14, 2017, BMV wrote two letters to the trial court, stating that it had received summons for Cause Numbers 1206 and 1207 where it had been named as defendant; however, based on the information provided by Majestic in the notices of claim, it had been unable to "review, comply[, ] or dispute the validity" of Majestic's claims since BMV's system could not locate the vehicles in its system. (Appellant's App. Vol. II, pp. 26-27). As such, BMV stated that it did not have any "possessory interest" in Majestic's vehicles, it did not have a "position regarding" whom the trial court should "award ...


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