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Monday, December 13, 2010

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 2 today (and 5 NFP)

For publication opinions today (2):

In Town of New Chicago v. City of Lake Station, et al. , a 31-page opinion, Judge Vaidik writes:

In 1988 the Town of New Chicago (“New Chicago”) and the City of Lake Station (“Lake Station”) entered into an intermunicipal agreement for the construction of an interceptor sewer system. The parties’ combined water was then sent downstream for treatment at the Gary Sanitary District (“GSD”). In their agreement, the parties agreed to comply with federal law, including the Clean Water Act, and that Lake Station would bill New Chicago monthly at the GSD rate. Although GSD tripled its rate in 1989, Lake Station did not inform New Chicago and continued to bill New Chicago at the old rate. GSD then sued Lake Station in 1999. Again, Lake Station did not inform New Chicago of the lawsuit. After Lake Station paid an over-five-million-dollar judgment to GSD in 2005 for the difference between the old rate it had been paying and the increased rate, Lake Station demanded approximately a half million dollars from New Chicago for its proportionate share of the judgment. When New Chicago did not pay, in 2007 Lake Station filed a two-count complaint against New Chicago seeking to recover the approximately half million dollars for the years 1990 to 2004. New Chicago raised several affirmative defenses, including laches and equitable estoppel.

In this discretionary interlocutory appeal, New Chicago appeals the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Lake Station on the issue of liability and denial of its motion for summary judgment. We conclude that there is no private right of action under the Clean Water Act. Accordingly, Lake Station’s only viable claim against New Chicago is for breach of contract. We conclude that laches is not available to New Chicago as a defense for Lake Station’s breach of contract claim because laches acts as a limitation upon equitable relief, and an action for breach of contract is a legal claim. Nevertheless, we conclude that New Chicago has met its burden of proving the defense of equitable estoppel because: (1) New Chicago lacked the knowledge or means of knowledge that Lake Station was not properly billing them because there was no indication that anything was wrong, (2) New Chicago relied on the monthly billings from Lake Station for more than fifteen years without any sort of notice from Lake Station, and (3) Lake Station’s conduct caused New Chicago to prejudicially change its position in that New Chicago was prevented from budgeting for the increased rate or joining in the GSD/Lake Station litigation. Because there is no genuine issue of material fact, we reverse the trial court and direct the court to enter summary judgment in favor of New Chicago on New Chicago’s equitable estoppel defense.

In Involuntary Commitment of G.M. , a 6-page opinion, Sr. Judge Sullivan writes:
G.M appeals from his involuntary regular commitment to the Logansport State Hospital. He asserts that the commitment order was not supported by sufficient evidence. His claim is that the court erroneously concluded that he was gravely disabled because that conclusion was premised upon a mere concern on the part of the petitioning psychiatrist at the Hospital that G.M. might relapse into his debilitating mental state and addiction to drugs and alcohol if he were to be released and went off his medication. G.M., without supporting authority, merely opines that such concern is not adequate proof of grave disability. * * *

In the case before us, we hold that the conclusion which the committing court stated as the basis for its order was not supported by the evidence but that rather than termination of the commitment, the more appropriate solution to the problem presented is to remand the matter to the committing court to conduct a review proceeding within fifteen days pursuant to Indiana Code section 12-26-15-1 (2004). The review should be a current review of G.M.’s care and treatment. In the review proceeding, due consideration shall be given to the “step-down” treatment plan set forth by Dr. Thompson in his May testimony, or to any alteration or modification of such treatment plan deemed appropriate to G.M.’s present mental condition and to such care and treatment as may be appropriate at the present time.

This cause is remanded to the Henry Superior Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

NFP civil opinions today (1):

J.R. v. Review Board (NFP)

NFP criminal opinions today (4):

Michelle Daub v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Antelmo Juarez v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Tiara N. White v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Justin Morris v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 13, 2010 12:10 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions