« Law - "Doing the Right Thing by Paying the Nanny Tax " | Main | Ind. Courts - "IHSAA appealing Jasmine Watson ruling" »

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ind. Decisions - "South Bend can try to recoup clean-up costs"

Cooper Industries, LLC v. City of South Bend, handed down Jan. 22nd by our Supreme Court (see ILB entry here), is the subject of a story today in the South Bend Tribune by Jamie Loo. Some quotes:

The city can pursue environmental legal action against a company that occupied land formerly owned by the Studebaker Corp., under a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The city filed a lawsuit against Cooper Industries, LLC, in 2003 alleging the company is the corporate successor of the Studebaker Corp. and therefore owes environmental damages to the city for cleanup. The city has spent millions cleaning up environmental damage on the 104-acre site south of downtown where the Studebaker Corp. once manufactured cars.

Cooper Industries argued that the city wasn't within the statute of limitations for pursuing legal action. The company also claimed that when it acquired Studebaker's assets, combined with the Worthington Corp. in 1967, the liabilities did not transfer. The liabilities would've remained with the Studebaker Corp. until it ceased to exist and then expired, attorneys argued. * * *

The court found that there was a continuity of shareholders between Studebaker and Studebaker-Worthington after the sale was completed. Studebaker also "remained legally and financially available to satisfy its remaining liabilities for three years after its dissolution." The McGraw-Edison Co. acquired all of Studebaker-Worthington's shares. That company merged with Cooper Industries in 2004.

In its ruling, the court found that the statute of limitations has run out on the city's tort claims, but that the city can continue its suit under the Indiana Environmental Legal Action Law, which took effect in 1998.

"I think it's a great decision for the city of South Bend," said city attorney Chuck Leone. "It allows us to recoup some of the cost for cleanup for damages that goes back decades."

Leone said the case will now go to an environmental court in Indianapolis. The city has been pursuing environmental damages through other ways, he said, and that a favorable outcome in the Cooper case will help the city.

The city received a settlement for environmental damages from Allied Products Corp. in 2005, which occupied some of the former Oliver Plow Works properties and a nearby stamping plant on South Franklin Street.

See this list of other ILB entries re Studebaker.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 24, 2009 12:28 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions