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Monday, April 21, 2014

Ind. Decisions - COA posts a second for publication opinion today

In Moran Electric Service, Inc., and Threaded Rod Company, Inc. v. Commissioner, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, City of Indianapolis, Ertel Manufacturing Corp., an 18-page opinion, Judge Barnes writes:

Threaded Rod Company, Inc., (“Threaded Rod”) and Moran Electric Service, Inc., (“Moran”) (collectively, “Appellants”) appeal the trial court’s denial of their motions to intervene and motions for preliminary injunction in litigation between the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (“IDEM”), the City of Indianapolis (“the City”), and Ertel Manufacturing Corporation (“Ertel”). We reverse and remand.

Appellants raise two issues, which we restate as:
I. whether the trial court properly found that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Appellants’ claims; and
II. whether the trial court properly denied Appellants’ motions to intervene. * * *

In 2008, the City brought a civil action against Ertel to compel Ertel to reimburse the City for its clean-up costs. In 2009, the trial court entered summary judgment for the City and found that Ertel was liable to the City for cleanup costs. * * *

In July 2011, IDEM, the City, Ertel, and various insurance companies entered into an Administrative Agreed Order (“Administrative Order”) and a Settlement and Release Agreement (“Ertel Settlement Agreement”). * * *

IDEM agreed to issue a No Further Action Letter (“NFA Letter”) to Ertel when the remedial goals were met.

As part of the two agreements, the insurance companies paid $1,000,000 to IDEM. * * *

In January 2013, Threaded Rod filed a petition to intervene in the civil action between IDEM and Ertel. Threaded Rod also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, motion for preliminary injunction, a request for a hearing, and alternatively, a motion for clarification of the trial court’s October 2011 order. Threaded Rod argued that the contamination on the Ertel site had migrated to the Threaded Rod site, that the $846,000 was intended to be used to clean up the Ertel site and other sites impacted by the contamination on the Ertel site, and that the funds should be preserved to address concerns on the neighboring properties. According to Threaded Rod, IDEM had abdicated its responsibility to clean up contaminants emanating from the Ertel site in violation of the trial court’s October 2011 order. Moran filed a separate motion to intervene and joined in Threaded Rod’s other motions. The City also filed a petition to intervene, which the trial court granted. * * *

IDEM argued that Appellants were not entitled to intervene in the action and that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the exclusive jurisdiction to review IDEM’s actions rested with the administrative process pursuant to the Administrative Orders and Procedures Act (“AOPA”). The City argued that the motions to intervene were untimely and, alternatively, that Appellants were not entitled to intervene.

On April 19, 2013, the trial court issued an order denying the requests to intervene and the requests for a preliminary injunction. The trial court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to address Appellants’ arguments pursuant to Indiana Department of Environmental Management v. Raybestos Products, Co., 897 N.E.2d 469 (Ind. 2008), corrected on reh’g by 903 N.E.2d 471 (Ind. 2009), cert. denied. * * *

The trial court erred when it determined that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction. However, under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, this action should be stayed until the administrative action is final. We also conclude that the trial court erred by denying Appellants’ motions to intervene. We reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 21, 2014 03:31 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions