Farmers Mutuals Ins. Co. v. Wolfe, 20693

Decision Date13 February 1968
Docket NumberNo. 2,No. 20693,20693,2
Citation233 N.E.2d 690,13 Ind.Dec. 107,142 Ind.App. 206
PartiesFARMERS MUTUALS INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant, v. Ross WOLFE, Larry Manning, Lorraine M. Manning, Appellees
CourtIndiana Appellate Court
Bamberger, Foreman, Oswald & Hahn, Evansville, for appellant
OPINION

SMITH, Justice.

This is an action brought under the Declaratory Judgments Act, the same being Acts of 1927, Chapter 81, Burns' Indiana Statutes, §§ 3--1101 et seq. (1946 Repl.), for a declaratory judgment, wherein the appellant, Farmers Mutuals Insurance Company, hereinafter referred to as the insurance company, requests a judicial declaration declaring that no farm liability insurance policy, either oral or written, was ever issued by the insurance company to the appellee, Ross Wolfe. The complaint further sought an adjudication declaring that no insurance coverage was ever in effect affording insurance coverage with respect to any liability asserted by the appellees, Larry Manning and Lorraine M. Manning, for personal injuries, loss of services, hospital and medical expenses, allegedly resulting from an accident occurring on June 26, 1958, wherein the appellee, Larry Manning, was injured as a result of being run over by a wagon being pulled by a farm tractor operated by the two minor sons of appellee, Ross Wolfe.

The appellees, Ross Wolfe, Larry Manning and Lorraine M. Manning, filed their respective answers to the complaint pursuant to Rule 1--3.

Upon these issues the cause was submitted for trial to the court and the court entered Special Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

In accordance with the Special Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law the court entered a judgment decreeing that the plaintiff insurance company take nothing by way of its complaint, and that the defendants and each of them recover of and from the plaintiff their costs and charges herein laid out and expended.

The plaintiff, Farmers Mutuals Insurance Company, timely filed a motion for a new trial, which reads in part as follows:

'The plaintiff, Farmers Mutual(s) Insurance Company, moves the Court for a new trial upon each of the following and separate and several grounds, to-wit:

'1. The decision of the Court is not sustained by sufficient evidence.

'2. The decision of the Court is contrary to law.'

The sole assignment of error is the overruling of a motion for a new trial.

The first question to be disposed of in this appeal presents a question of procedure. The appellees maintain that appellant's second ground of error as alleged in its motion for a new trial, namely, that 'The decision of the Court is contrary to law', presents no question on this appeal as to the Conclusions of Law as found by the trial court. It is necessary for the court to resolve this question before consideration of the appeal on its merits.

From an examination of the motion for a new trial it is quite evident that in said motion there is no error specifically addressed to any specific finding of fact or conclusion of law. Also, the appellant in its brief did not argue that the trial court erred in certain of its findings of fact and conclusions of law. Burns' Indiana Statutes, § 2--2401, prescribes eight statutory grounds for a new trial, one of which the appellant has relied upon. The prescribing of these grounds does not involve a matter of procedure, and no court by decision or rule can modify this statute. As far as we can determine from the decisions of our courts of appeal and from the rules adopted by our Supreme Court, it is also apparent that no court has attempted to modify this statute by judicial decree or rule. There are many cases which have specifically and without contradiction held that it is correct in appealing from a negative judgment in a trial by court to assign as error the overruling of the motion for a new trial and to specify as a cause therefor that the decision of the court is contrary to law. This appears to be exactly what the appellant has done in the case at bar. Glass v. Bailey (1953), 233 Ind. 266, 118 N.E.2d 800; Fox v. Ohio Valley Gas Corporation (1966), Ind.App., 222 N.E.2d 412; Calvert v. London (1965), Ind.App., 210 N.Ed.2d 376; Montgomery v. Lincoln Laboratories, Inc. (1965), Ind.App., 209 N.E.2d 273; Beaty v. Donaldson (1964), 136 Ind.App. 269, 200 N.E.2d 233; Gorby et al. v. McEndarfer (1963), 135 Ind.App. 74, 191 N.E.2d 786; Myers, Administrator, etc. v. Wyrick (1963), 134 Ind.App. 670, 191 N.E.2d 107; Gaut et al. v. Gault, Administratrix, etc. (1963), 134 Ind.App. 317, 187 N.E.2d 580; Smith et ux. v. Atkinson et al. (1962), 133 Ind.App. 430, 180 N.E.2d 542; Christiansen v. Hockema (1962), 133 Ind.App. 417, 181 N.E.2d 786; Doolittle, Executor, etc. v. Kunschik et al. (1962), 134 Ind.App. 125, 186 N.E.2d 803; McBride v. Griffith et al. (1962), 134 Ind.App. 12, 185 N.E.2d 22; Von Cline v. Cline, Administratrix, etc. (1960), 130 Ind.App. 473, 165 N.E.2d 608; Jones et al. v. Greiger, Trustee, etc., et al. (1960), 130 Ind.App. 526, 166 N.E.2d 868; Freeport Motor Casualty Co. et al. v. Chafin (1960), 131 Ind.App. 362, 170 N.E.2d 819; Metrailer et al. v. Bishop et al. (1959), 130 Ind.App. 77, 162 N.E.2d 94.

The appellees appear to be asserting that this court can review neither the trial court's conclusions of law nor its findings of fact by only specifying in the motion for a new trial that the decision of the court is contrary to law. The appellees' argument seems to be based on the proposition that the appellant argued in its brief that the trial court erred in certain of its findings of fact and conclusions of law. However, as stated above, the appellant has not attacked any specific finding of fact or conclusion of law, but maintains that the uncontradicted evidence adduced in the case at bar can lead to only one result, namely, that the trial court's decision is contrary to law because the trial court reached an opposite result.

The appellees have cited the case of Edwards v. Wyllie (1964), Ind.App., 203 N.E.2d 200. However, in the Edwards case the Supreme Court spoke as follows:

'This leaves us with the errors assigned in the motion for new trial. Appellant claims that the decision of the court is not sustained by sufficient evidence. * * * 'It is next argued that the specifications contained in the motion for new trial that 'the decision is contrary to law 'presents all of the issues thereby tendered in this appeal.' It has been held many times that only where the evidence is without conflict and leads to but one reasonable conclusion and the trial court has reached a contrary conclusion the decision will be disturbed as being contrary to law.' (Emphasis supplied)

The Supreme Court then considered the specification in the motion for a new trial that the decision was contrary to law.

This appears to us to be the exact proposition set forth in appellant's original brief, namely, the evidence is without conflict that no valid contract of insurance was created since the parties thereto failed to agree upon all the necessary terms.

The appellees further maintain that a court cannot consider whether a decision is contrary to law by examining the evidence because it is not specified that the trial court erred in any of its findings of fact. To support this proposition the appellees have cited the case of Grusd v. Grusd, Guardian, etc., et al. (1963), 135 Ind.App. 112, 192 N.E.2d 499; Nunemaker v. Glassburn (1965), Ind.App., 210 N.E.2d 668; and Southport Board of Zoning Appeals et al. v. Southside Ready Mix Concrete, Inc., et al. (1961), 242 Ind. 133, 176 N.E.2d 112.

It is our opinion, after reviewing the above authorities cited by the appellees, that it becomes apparent that one admits the facts only as found when he is attacking conclusions of law; that when asserting that a trial court erred in its conclusions of law, an appellant is, in effect, arguing that the trial court reached an erroneous conclusion of law from the facts as found; that this concept is clearly unrelated and cannot be applied to a specification in a motion for a new trial that the decision is contrary to law.

It is further our opinion that the appellees have demonstrated a basic misunderstanding as to when one specifies error in findings of fact and conclusions of law, and it seems to be the theory of the appellees that even when one is specifying that a decision is contrary to law, it is necessary to assign that each conclusion of law and finding of fact is erroneous so that the trial court will be in a better position to correct possible errors. That appellees' rationale has been rebutted by citation of the numerous decisions which specifically hold that it is correct to specify that a decision is contrary to law when arguing that the evidence is without conflict, can lead to but one reasonable conclusion, and the trial court has reached a contrary conclusion.

Moreover, it is our opinion that this theory of the appellees must be dispelled by reference to Rule 1--14B, the new Supreme Court rule that became effective on March 1, 1967, which reads as follows:

'Whenever a new trial is required on the ground or grounds 'that the verdict or decision is not sustained by sufficient evidence or is contrary to law', the moving party shall file a memorandum stating specifically under such itemized cause wherein such evidence is 'insufficient or the verdict or decision is contrary to law. The party filing such motion shall be deemed to have waived any ground not specified in the memorandum.'

It is our observation that if specifications of error and conclusions of law and findings of fact are always required to be included in the motion for a new trial so that the trial court will be in a better position to analyze possible errors, as asserted by the appellees, then for what possible reason was this new rule enacted? It...

To continue reading

Request your trial
13 cases
  • Busik v. Levine
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • July 6, 1973
    ...does not involve a matter of procedure, and no court by decision or rule can modify this statute.' Farmers Mutuals Insurance Co. v. Wolfe, 142 Ind.App. 206, 233 N.E.2d 690, 692 (1968). While these holdings may seem unduly restrictive of the rule-making power and would presumably not be foll......
  • Stockberger v. Meridian Mut. Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • October 25, 1979
    ...of coverage; (4) the limit and duration of the risk; and (5) the amount of the premium to be paid. Farmers Mutuals Insurance Company v. Wolfe et al. (1968), 142 Ind.App. 206, 233 N.E.2d 690. A contract of insurance is not binding if negotiations are incomplete in any material particular, or......
  • Ostric v. St. Mary's College
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • November 2, 1972
    ...to law.' Lengthy opinions often were written upon this dull and metaphysical subject. E.g., Farmers Mutuals (Mutual) Ins. Co. v. Wolfe, 13 Ind.Dec. 107, 233 N.E.2d 690 (Ind.App.1968). These technical rules have been expressly repudiated by subdivision (b). The court should avoid rejection o......
  • Vernon Fire & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Thatcher
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • August 3, 1972
    ...There are, however, recent cases which seem to be premised on such an assumption. One such case, Farmers Mutuals Insurance Company v. Wolfe (1968), 142 Ind.App. 206, 217, 233 N.E.2d 690, 692, 'From an examination of the evidence it is apparent that the agent of the appellant insurance compa......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT