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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 1 today (and 9 NFP)

For publication opinions today (1):

In Leslie Bridges v. Veolia Water Indianapolis, LLC, Veolia Water North America Operating Service, LLC, and The City of Indianapolis, Dept. of Waterworks, a 17-page opinion, Judge Bradford writes:

After Veolia Water twice turned her water off for non-payment, appellant Leslie Bridges filed a class action seeking return of her $25 reconnection fee and other unspecified damages and attorney’s fees. The trial court dismissed, concluding that Bridges had failed to exhaust the administrative remedies available at the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission. We conclude that the trial court was correct to hold that Bridges was obliged to seek those remedies before seeking judicial relief. * * *

In arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by denying her motion to correct error, Bridges claims that the IURC did not have exclusive jurisdiction over her claim. Alternatively, Bridges claims that even if the IURC did have exclusive jurisdiction over her claim, her failure to exhaust the available administrative remedies should be excused because the exhaustion of said remedies would have been futile. For their part, the Appellees argue that the IURC did have exclusive jurisdiction over Bridges’s claim. Appellees further argue that exhaustion of the available administrative remedies would not have been futile, and, as such, Bridges’s failure to exhaust said remedies should not be excused. * * *

Having concluded that the IURC has exclusive jurisdiction over Bridges’s claim against the Appellees, we must next consider whether Bridges’s failure to exhaust the available administrative remedies should be excused. Again, Bridges argues that even if the IURC did have exclusive jurisdiction over her claim against the Appellees, she should be excused from exhausting the available administrative remedies because the exhaustion of the available administrative remedies would have been futile. Appellees, for their part, argue that exhaustion of the available administrative remedies would not have been futile. * * *

In the instant matter, Bridges sought damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, and an injunction prohibiting the Appellees from continuing to disconnect residential water service without following the terms of the Tariff. The request for the injunction is moot, however, because the Department sold the waterworks assets in 2011 and Veolia is no longer involved in the administration of waterworks assets. The damages sought by Bridges appear to be merely the recovery of the $25 re-connect fee that she incurred after one instance when she claims he residential water service was disconnected in violation of the terms of the Tariff. * * *

Thus, because the IURC would have the authority to order the Appellees to refund the damages allegedly suffered by Bridges, it would not have been futile for Bridges to exhaust the administrative remedies available to her.

Furthermore, even if Bridges were to be unsuccessful in an administrative challenge, resort to the IURC may produce a reasoned explanation of the lawfulness of the Appellees’ actions, and that, in and of itself, could be of value before resorting to the courts to resolve such an issue. * * *

In sum, having concluded that Bridges’s claim falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the IURC and that exhaustion of the available administrative remedies would not have been futile, we conclude that the trial court acted within its discretion in denying Bridges’s motion to correct error because the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Bridges’s claim.

NFP civil opinions today (3):

Bryan Jann v. Review Board of the Indiana Dept. of Workforce Development and C&B Custom Modular, Inc. (NFP)

Kenneth Hawkins v. Debra Hawkins (NFP)

David J. Bogolia and Nikki Schafer v. John Danielson, M.D. (NFP)

NFP criminal opinions today (6):

Joshua Shipley v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Jeffrey S. Heironimus v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Angela R. Elliott v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Brian S. Fleming v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Stephen L. Reed v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Darrius Woods v. State of Indiana (NFP)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 1, 2012 10:35 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions