Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Indiana Supreme Court
Reed v. Reid
A steel fabrication company deposited solid waste on a landowner's property, after which the landowner (Plaintiff) filed a complaint seeking damages against multiple parties (Defendants) and on multiple grounds, including a claim for an environmental legal action (ELA). Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on his environmental legal action claim and sought to impose corporate liability on Defendants. Defendants filed cross motions for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims, except for his claim of negligence. The trial court denied Plaintiff's motions and granted Defendants' motions as to all claims, leaving for trial only Plaintiff's negligence claim and the claims of potential liability against Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that summary judgment was (1) not proper for either party on Plaintiff's ELA claim; (2) not proper for Defendants on Plaintiff's illegal dumping, fraud, nuisance, and trespass claims; (3) proper for Defendants on Plaintiff's unjust enrichment and intentional torts claims; (4) proper for certain defendants on Plaintiff's responsible corporate officer claim but improper as to others; and (5) proper for Plaintiff on his claims against one defendant as responsible corporate officer. View "Reed v. Reid" on Justia Law
Crowel v. Marshall County Drainage Bd.
Petitioner appealed a Marshall County Drainage Board order assessing him a portion of a drain-reconstruction project's costs, contending that he received no benefit from the project because his land was adequately drained before the reconstruction. The Supreme Court affirmed the assessment because under Indiana law, holding (1) Indiana law allows a drainage board to assess a benefit to a tract of land based solely on the fact that surface water from that land flows into the regulated drain for which the assessment is levied; and (2) as a result, the trial court's order - which found that the Board's decision to attribute a benefit to Petitioner on this bases was not arbitrary, capricious, or unlawful, and was supported by substantial evidence - was not erroneous. View "Crowel v. Marshall County Drainage Bd." on Justia Law
State Auto. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Flexdar, Inc.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) informed Flexdar, Inc. that Flexdar would be liable for the costs of cleaning up trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination on a site where Flexdar previously had operations. State Automobile Mutual Insurance Company (State Auto), with whom Flexdar maintained general liability and umbrella insurance policies for the period when the contamination occurred, filed a declaratory judgment action, contending that coverage for the TCE contamination was excluded pursuant to a pollution exclusion in the policies. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Flexdar, concluding that the language of State Auto's pollution exclusion was ambiguous and therefore should be construed against State Auto and in favor of coverage. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the language of the pollution exclusion at issue was ambiguous, and therefore, in accordance with precedent, the policies were construed in favor of coverage. View "State Auto. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Flexdar, Inc." on Justia Law
Witt v. Jay Petroleum, Inc.
John Witt, HydroTech Corporation, and attorney Mark Shere (Appellants) were held in contempt of court for violating the terms of a temporary restraining order (TRO). The contempt holding arose from protracted litigation in a lawsuit over the costs of an environmental cleanup. The trial court issued the TRO enjoining work on the site until a preliminary injunction hearing could be held. After the TRO was issued, work on the site commenced. The trial court subsequently issued the preliminary injunction. Later, the court held Appellants in contempt and held them jointly and severally liable for $108,487 in costs and attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed the trial court, concluding that the trial court did not err in holding Witt, Shere, and HydroTech in contempt, determining the sanction, and imposing it jointly and severally. View "Witt v. Jay Petroleum, Inc." on Justia Law
Town of Avon v. W. Cent. Conservancy Dist.
Washington Township and the West Central Conservancy District (WCCD) owned property within the Town of Avon's boundaries that overlay an underground aquifer. After the Township and WCCD began exploring the possibility of drilling wells into the aquifer in order to withdraw water and sell it to third parties, the Town passed an ordinance that (1) prohibited taking water from a watercourse for retail, wholesale, or mass distribution unless done on behalf of the Town, and (2) defined a watercourse as any body of water whether above or below ground. The Township and WCCD filed complaints challenging the ordinance's validity under the state's Home Rule Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Township and WCCD. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the aquifer at issue was a watercourse under Indiana law; (2) the Home Rule Act permitted the Town to regulate another political unit's attempt to withdraw water from the aquifer; and (3) the Town's proposed regulation was not preempted by statutes authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to regulate aquifers. View "Town of Avon v. W. Cent. Conservancy Dist." on Justia Law