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Friday, September 19, 2014

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 2 today (and 1 NFP)

For publication opinions today (2):

In City of Mitchell v. Randy Phelix, a 15-page opinion, Judge Barnes writes:

The City of Mitchell (“the City”) appeals the trial court’s denial of its complaint for declaratory judgment related to Randy Phelix’s claim for medical expenses. The Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and the Indiana Municipal Lawyers Association filed an amici curiae brief in support of the City. We reverse.

The City raises two issues, which we revise and restate as whether the trial court properly found that the City was required to pay Phelix’s medical expenses under Indiana Code Section 36-8-4-5. * * *

We recognize the inconsistency here—PERF apparently determined that Phelix’s medical condition was at least in part a result of his employment, but the worker’s compensation carrier determined that his medical condition was not related to his employment. However, that inconsistency would have been better addressed by Phelix exhausting his administrative remedies in the worker’s compensation proceedings. Where the statutes are unambiguous, as here, we are constrained to apply the statutes as written. The trial court erred when it concluded that Phelix was entitled to have the City pay his medical bills under Indiana Code Section 36-8-4-5 despite the worker’s compensation carrier’s denial of his claim.

Conclusion. The trial court erred when it determined that the City was required to pay Phelix’s medical expenses under Indiana Code Section 36-8-4-5. We reverse.

In JDN Properties, LLC v. Vanmeter Enterprises, Inc., an 11-page opinion, Judge Barnes writes:
JDN Properties, LLC, (“JDN”) appeals the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of VanMeter Enterprises, Inc. (“VEI”). We reverse and remand.

The sole restated issue before us is whether there is any evidence VEI caused or contributed to ground pollution in land that VEI sold JDN, as required to support JDN’s claim against VEI under Indiana’s Environmental Legal Actions (“ELA”) statute. * * *

To the extent VEI implies that a party seeking recovery under the ELA must prove that a defendant both caused or contributed to pollution and had knowledge of such pollution,4 the plain language of the statute does not require both. Rather, we believe knowledge of pollution is one way in which an owner of land may be held liable under the ELA for causing or contributing to hazardous pollution, under circumstances like those present here. Because there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether VEI had actual knowledge of petroleum contamination caused by its tenant, whether such contamination occurred during VEI’s ownership of the land and whether the contamination discovered in 2009 was the same contamination discovered between 1988 and 1991, it was improper to grant VEI’s motion for summary judgment.

Conversely, we reject JDN’s claim that it is entitled to summary judgment in its favor. The evidence we have described is conflicting as to whether VEI had knowledge of a petroleum leak occurring during its ownership of the land. Thus, there are genuine issues of material fact still to be resolved as to whether VEI caused or contributed to the petroleum contamination and a grant of summary judgment in JDN’s favor would be inappropriate.

Conclusion. There are genuine issues of material fact in this case regarding whether VEI caused or contributed to the ground contamination discovered by JDN in 2009. We reverse the grant of summary judgment in favor of VEI on JDN’s claim under the ELA and remand for further proceedings.

NFP civil opinions today (1):

In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: K.C. & K.G. (minor children), and R.G. (mother) & T.G. (father) v. Indiana Department of Child Services (NFP)

NFP criminal opinions today (0):

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 19, 2014 12:37 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions