« Ind. Decisions - More on: Appellees’ Response to Appellants’ Petition for Initial Hearing En Banc | Main | Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decided a second case July 21st, a reversal »

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - Two stories re INDOT in lawsuits

"Judge rules Monroe County can’t block I-69 work at night" reported Ryan Sabalow of the Indianapolis Star last evening. Some quotes from the story:

For the time being, Monroe County officials won’t be using a noise ordinance to shut down nighttime construction work on the I-69 project.

Marion Superior Court Judge David Dreyer issued a preliminary injunction today that allows the Indiana Department of Transportation to resume work on the controversial freeway project at night — beeping backup alarms and all.

Neighbors, some of whom are longtime opponents of the freeway project, had complained to Monroe County officials that those backup alarms and other construction noises were keeping them up at night. The county changed its noise ordinance in response.

Faced with up to $7,500 fines per violation, INDOT’s contractors shut down nighttime work, saying they couldn’t run their equipment and keep workers safe without the backup signals.

INDOT sued, saying it needed to work at night to finish the $100 million section of the freeway on time. INDOT alleged the ordinance violates Indiana’s Home Rule Act, which prevents a county from imposing burdens on the agency or regulating matters that fall under INDOT’s purview.

"Suit tests INDOT policy of charging for highway repairs" is the heading of a long July 19th IBJ story by Kathleen McLaughlin that begins:
A trucking company is challenging the Indiana Department of Transportation’s authority to sue for damage to state property, a lawsuit that could affect thousands of motorists and millions of dollars in revenue.

Tennessee-based Averitt Express Inc. brings its case to the Indiana Court of Appeals as INDOT ramps up its efforts to collect for damage to guardrails and other infrastructure. INDOT’s property-damage billing grew more than 50 percent, to $7.1 million, in the fiscal year ended June 30 and covered 4,354 incidents.

Most of those bills are settled out of court by insurance companies, but Averitt’s case went to Putnam Circuit Court. In a summary-judgment ruling early this year, the trial court judge found in favor of the state, which said Averitt owed $59,969 after a 2011 accident that damaged a guardrail and pavement on Interstate 70 and killed Averitt’s driver, John Goins.

Averitt’s attorney at Indianapolis-based trucking specialist Scopelitis Garvin Light Hanson & Feary argued that INDOT’s long-standing policy of collecting for routine highway repairs is illegal because those repairs are already paid for by tax dollars.

Other courts observe the rule that governments cannot recover the cost of routine functions through civil suits when those costs are already funded through taxation, Scopelitis attorney Michael Langford said in his April 21 appeals brief. “This rule expresses the common-sense principle that taxpayers should not be asked to fund the same government functions twice,” he said.

Here is the appellate docket in the case, Averitt Express, Inc. v. State of Indiana, et al..

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 22, 2014 09:30 AM
Posted to Indiana Government