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Central RV, Inc. v. Kansas Department of Revenue

Court of Appeals of Kansas

September 27, 2019

Central RV, Inc., a Kansas Corporation, Appellant,
v.
Kansas Department of Revenue, Appellee.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         When another state has designated a travel trailer as a salvage vehicle and the trailer has since been repaired so that it can be safely operated in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Revenue may issue a rebuilt salvage title for the trailer.

          Appeal from Franklin District Court; Eric W. Godderz, judge.

          Bradley R. Finkeldei, of Stevens & Brand, LLP, of Lawrence, for appellant.

          Scott A. Reed, of Kansas Department of Revenue, for appellee.

          Before Leben, P.J., Buser and Standridge, JJ.

          Leben, J.

         Safeco Insurance had insured a travel trailer when it was damaged; Safeco then obtained a salvage title from the State of Oregon. A salvage title tells anyone who might want to buy the trailer-and get title to it-that some issue has led to its status as a salvage vehicle. The title to the vehicle involved here said "TOTALED" in an area for title brands (designations that are put on the title for information about a vehicle beyond ownership).

         Central RV, Inc., a Kansas company, then bought the trailer from Safeco. When Central RV titled the trailer in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Revenue issued what's called a rebuilt salvage title. That would tell potential buyers that there had been some past problem with the trailer but that it had been repaired.

         But Central RV wanted a clean Kansas title-one that would give no indication the trailer had ever been damaged, let alone that its prior title said it had been "TOTALED." When the Department of Revenue refused to give it a clean title, Central RV sued. The district court ruled for the Department of Revenue, and we must now decide whether it was correct.

         The district court granted a motion to dismiss Central RV's claim, so we accept for the purposes of this opinion the facts set out in Central RV's petition. See Platt v. Kansas State University, 305 Kan. 122, 126, 379 P.3d 362 (2016). With no disputed facts, we face only questions about statutory interpretation. We consider them independently, with no required deference to the district court. In re Tax Appeal of BHCMC, 307 Kan. 154, 161, 408 P.3d 103 (2017).

         After buying the trailer, Central RV sought a Kansas vehicle title for it. See K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 8-127; K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 8-135. The parties agree that the trailer is a vehicle as defined by Kansas law. See K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 8-126 (ll), (mm), (qq), and (rr). The parties differ on interpreting several terms in a statute that defines the terms involved in titling vehicles, K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 8-197. We too will focus on those definitions.

         The Department of Revenue gave Central RV a rebuilt salvage title, and that's a defined term:

"'[R]ebuilt salvage title' means a certificate of title issued by the division for a vehicle previously designated a salvage vehicle which is now designated a rebuilt salvage ...

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