State v. Rendleman, No. 37S00-9202-CV-79

Docket NºNo. 37S00-9202-CV-79
Citation603 N.E.2d 1333
Case DateNovember 23, 1992
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 1333

603 N.E.2d 1333
STATE of Indiana, Indiana State Police and Indiana
Department of Highways, Appellants, (Defendants Below)
Richard H. RENDLEMAN, Appellee. (Plaintiff Below)
No. 37S00-9202-CV-79.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
Nov. 23, 1992.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen., G. Richard Potter, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellant State of Ind., Indiana State Police, and Indiana Dept. of Highways.

Terrance L. Smith, Lawrence M. Hansen, Smith & DeBonis, East Chicago, for appellee Richard H. Rendleman.

KRAHULIK, Justice.

This case involves a challenge to the constitutionality of the law enforcement immunity section of the Indiana Tort Claims Act, Ind.Code Ann. Sec. 34-4-16.5-3(7) (West Supp.1992). 1 The State of Indiana, the Indiana State Police, and Indiana Department of Highways (Defendants below) (collectively "the State") appeal from the trial court's order finding Section 3(7) unconstitutional and granting partial summary judgment in favor of Richard Rendleman (Plaintiff below). The State brings this direct appeal pursuant to Indiana Appellate Rule 4(A)(8). We find the provision constitutional.


The following facts are undisputed for purposes of this appeal. Rendleman filed suit against the State for damages allegedly sustained in a motor vehicle accident involving him and an Indiana State Trooper, Arlie Brown, that occurred in the early morning hours of August 18, 1988, on the

Page 1334

exit ramp leading from northbound Interstate-65 to Interstate-80/94. The State had placed an electronic flashing arrow board in the center of the ramp which directed traffic to the left of the arrow board around the scene of a prior accident. Trooper Brown observed Rendleman driving, apparently accelerating, around the right side of the arrow board onto the berm of the ramp. With his vehicle's emergency lights activated, Trooper Brown positioned his vehicle on the ramp in an effort to attract Rendleman's attention so Rendleman would stop his vehicle. Rendleman braked his vehicle, but was unable to stop it before it struck the Trooper's vehicle.

Rendleman filed suit seeking a recovery for his personal injuries and property damage. As an affirmative defense, the State asserted immunity from liability by virtue of Section 3(7). Rendleman then filed a motion for partial summary judgment contending that Section 3(7) violated Article 1 Sec. 12 of the Indiana Constitution. Opining that Indiana's Constitution did not provide for sovereign immunity, the trial court described the doctrine as an archaic one "which no longer should be allowed to exist within the State." The trial court also noted that if immunity existed, then Rendleman would have to bear the entire loss because the State would be immune and Rendleman's insurance policy excluded uninsured motorist coverage for the negligence of immune governmental entities and their employees. The trial court determined that, as applied to Rendleman, Section 3(7) violated Article 1 Sec. 12 because immunity would force him to be responsible for damages not of his own making. The trial court found no merit to the argument that without immunity, police officers might not act without hesitation in emergency situations or might not fully enforce the law. Rendleman's motion for partial summary judgment was granted. At Rendleman's request, this order was made final. This appeal under Indiana Appellate Rule 4(A)(8) followed.

Standard of Review

When a statute is challenged on the basis that it is unconstitutional, our standard of review is well-settled. We determine if the case can be disposed of on non-constitutional grounds. Reilly v. Robertson (1977), 266 Ind. 29, 35, 360 N.E.2d 171, 174, cert. den. (1977) 434 U.S. 825, 98 S.Ct. 73, 54 L.Ed.2d 83. Here, the constitutional question is squarely presented and, therefore, we address it. The burden is on the party challenging the constitutionality of the statute, and all doubts are resolved against that party. Sidle v. Majors (1976), 264 Ind. 206, 209, 341 N.E.2d 763, 766. "[E]very statute stands before us clothed with the presumption of constitutionality, and such presumption continues until clearly overcome by a showing to the contrary." Id. The legislature has wide latitude in determining public policy, and we do not substitute our belief as to the wisdom of a particular statute for those of the legislature. Id. "A statute is not unconstitutional simply because the court might consider it born of unwise, undesirable, or ineffectual policies." Johnson v. St. Vincent Hospital, Inc. (1980), 273 Ind. 374, 382, 404 N.E.2d 585, 591.

Section 3(7)

Is Constitutional

Article 1 Sec. 12 of the Indiana Constitution provides:

All courts shall be open; and every person, for injury done to him in his person, property, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law. Justice shall be administered freely, and without purchase; completely, and without denial; speedily, and without delay.

Rendleman argues that Section 3(7) of the Tort Claims Act violates the first sentence in this section because he is precluded from obtaining a remedy for his personal injury and property damage. This question has been previously decided against Rendleman. This Court did so summarily in Seymour Nat'l. Bank v. State (1981), Ind., 428 N.E.2d 203, 250, by noting that a similar challenge was advanced and rejected in Krueger v. Bailey (1980), Ind.App., 406 N.E.2d 665, 670-1. In Krueger, the Court of Appeals rejected the claim of unconstitutionality on the grounds that the Tort Claims Act had not changed the accessibility of the courts because it did little more

Page 1335

than codify the existing case law. Id. We also implicitly recognized the constitutionality of Section 3(7) recently in Tittle v. Mahan (1991), Ind., 582 N.E.2d 796. Today, we continue to recognize that Section 3(7) is...

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