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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court continues record output of decisions - including foodstamp and pollution exclusion opinions.

In Sheila Perdue, et al. v. Michael A. Gargano, et al., a 23-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Dickson writes:

In this challenge to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration's (FSSA) automated system of processing claims for Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and hold that the FSSA's denial notices are insufficiently explanatory but that the FSSA may deny an application for Food Stamp benefits when the applicant fails to cooperate in the eligibility determination process. We affirm in part the trial court's grant of Perdue's motion for summary judgment and hold that Sheila Perdue is entitled to reasonable accommodations in applying for benefits but that this does not necessarily require providing a caseworker or case management services. * * *

Summary judgments in favor of the State as to Class A and Sub-class A and in favor of the plaintiffs as to Class C are reversed, and summary judgment in favor of Sheila Perdue is affirmed in part. With respect to Class A and Sub-class A, we grant the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and hold that the notices used by the FSSA to inform applicants that they have been denied Medicaid, Food Stamp, and TANF benefits are unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution because they fail to sufficiently explain the reasons underlying the agency's adverse determination. On this issue, this case is remanded to the trial court to adjudicate the plaintiffs' related claims for relief. With respect to Class C, we reverse the grant of the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and hold that federal law permits the FSSA to deny an application for Food Stamp benefits when the applicant fails to cooperate in the eligibility determination process. With respect to Sheila Perdue, we affirm in part the trial court's grant of Perdue's motion for summary judgment to hold that she is entitled to reasonable accommodation, but we decline to require that the State necessarily must provide a caseworker or case management services.

Hunt Construction Group, Inc., and Mezzetta Construction, Inc. v. Shannon D. Garrett, a 14-page, 4-1 opinion, Justice Sullivan writes:
An employee of a concrete subcontractor was injured in a workplace accident during the construction of Lucas Oil Stadium. She seeks to recover damages for negligence from the project‟s construction manager by whom she was not employed but whom she contends had a legal duty of care for jobsite-employee safety. Because we find that the construction manager did not have, either by the terms of its contracts or by its actions, such a legal duty, we hold that the construction manager may not be held liable to the worker for negligence. * * *

The judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shepard, C.J., and Rucker and David, JJ., concur.
Dickson, J., dissents, believing that the duty of care owed by the construction manager is a mixed question of fact and law, and that, under the facts of this case, material issues of fact exist that preclude summary judgment for either party.

In State Automobile Mutual Insurance Company v. Flexdar, Inc. and RTS Realty, a 13-page 3-2 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:
In this case we examine whether the language of a pollution exclusion in a commercial general liability policy is ambiguous. We hold that it is. * * *

Indiana decisions have been consistent in recognizing the requirement that language of a pollution exclusion be explicit. “To unsettle the law . . . would show scant respect for the principle of stare decisis.” CSX Transp., Inc. v. McBride, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct. 2630, 2639-40 n.4 (2011). We see no reason to abandon settled precedent.

The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Dickson, J., concurs.
David, J., concurs in result.
Sullivan, J., dissents with separate opinion in which Shepard, C.J., joins. [the dissent begins, at p. 11, with] The Court holds that American States Insurance Co. v. Kiger, 662 N.E.2d 945 (Ind. 1996), demands that the pollution exclusion found in most general liability insurance policies be ignored. I respectfully dissent.

A few days ago, Judges Richard A. Posner, Diane P. Wood, and David F. Hamilton, joined in a decision enforcing a pollution exclusion in a case for all relevant purposes the same as this. Scottsdale Indem. Co. v. Vill. of Crestwood, Nos. 11-2385, 11-2556, 11-2583, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 5069 (7th Cir. Mar. 12, 2012). Their decision is worthy of review here, both for its clarity and applicability.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 22, 2012 01:33 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions