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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Ind. Decisions - "Jeff case goes to high court: Sewer-bill collection method in dispute"

The case of Pinnacle Properties Development Group, LLC v. City of Jeffersonville, Indiana, which was on the May 30th Supreme Court transfer list (see ILB entry here), is the subject of a story today by Ben Zion Hershberg in the Louisville Courier Journal. Some quotes:

The Indiana Supreme Court has agreed to consider a Jeffersonville case that could affect the finances of municipal sewer departments statewide.

At issue is a dispute between Jeffersonville and Pinnacle Properties Development Group LLC, a large owner and operator of apartment buildings and other real estate in the city.

In a lawsuit, Pinnacle challenged the method -- used by many cities -- to make landlords responsible for unpaid sewer bills of apartment tenants, said Perry McCall, Pinnacle's lawyer.

Jeffersonville has simply transferred delinquent bills to landlords' accounts after a certain amount of time, he said.

Pinnacle contends that state law requires the city to notify the property owner about a tenant's unpaid bill and then take the more formal step of filing a lien against the property to make the owner legally responsible.

Former Clark County Circuit Judge Daniel Donahue upheld the city's procedure. But the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in October, saying the city's sewer ordinance "does not provide a mechanism for collection."

Under state law, the city can collect delinquencies from deposits if apartment tenants have been required to pay a deposit for sewer service, the court of appeals said. But in the absence of such deposits, the court said, the city must file a lien against the property owner.

Scott Lewis, the lawyer for Jeffersonville, said yesterday that he was pleased that the Supreme Court had agreed to take the case. The decision reflects the potential statewide impact, he said, and indicates the court believes there's enough substance to his arguments to review them. * * *

The Supreme Court said it did not anticipate holding oral arguments in the case.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 5, 2008 07:14 AM
Posted to Indiana Transfer Lists