Indiana Consolidated Insurance Co. v. Mathew
402 N.E.2d 1000 (Ind. App. 1980)

  • Mathew was trying to start his brother’s lawnmower in his brother’s garage. It caught fire and the garage was destroyed.
    • When the fire started, Mathew ran away instead of trying to put it out.
  • Mathew’s brother’s insurance company (Indiana Consolidated) didn’t want to pay for the damages, so instead they sued Mathew for negligence.
    • Indiana Consolidated argued that Mathew breached his duty to his brother to exercise due care, and therefore is liable for negligence.
    • Btw, once an insurance company pays off a claim, the doctrine of subrogation allows them to sue the person whose negligence caused the damage. That’s why they were allowed to sue Mathew.
  • The Trial Court found that Mathew was not negligent. Indiana Consolidated appealed.
    • This was a bench trial, that means there was no jury, it was the judge who was the finder of fact.
    • Indiana Consolidated argued that because the evidence was so overwhelming that there was no way that a jury would have found for Mathew. The judge should have directed a verdict for Indiana Consolidated since there was no legitimate question of fact, it was only a question of law.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court reviewed Mathew’s actions and found that they were within the bounds of what a reasonable person would have done in similar circumstances.
    • The Court didn’t have to show that Mathew was not negligent, just that a reasonable person could possibly have found him to not be negligent.