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Appeals court slashes contamination award from $154,632 to $7,383

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Court-ordered environmental damages caused by PCB contamination at a Churubusco industrial site were reduced from a total of $154,632 to $7,383 on Thursday by a panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In Dana Companies, LLC v. Chaffee Rentals, a/k/a, Chaffee Rentals and Storage, BRC Rubber Group, Inc., Charles V. Chaffee, Karen J. Chaffee and Clifford Chaffee,  92A03-1208-CC-358, Chaffee and BRC appealed a ruling in Whitley Circuit Court that BRC owed the six-figure sum to Dana Companies, which had caused the PCB pollution during Dana’s ownership of the site it operated from the 1960s to the mid-1980s as a car-parts manufacturing site. Dana also appealed.

Dana sold the property to Chaffee Rentals in the 1980s, which rented it to BRC, a maker of rubber parts for cars. As the site came under the purview of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for the cleanup of PCBs left from Dana’s operation of the site, the parties in the 1990s executed a settlement agreement. Judge Rudy R. Pyle III wrote that the agreement continues to govern.

Pyle wrote that the trial court correctly ruled that the doctrine of fortuity didn’t apply and that BCR didn’t breach its contract, rejecting Dana’s appellate arguments. The court found that BRC was responsible only for non-PCB contamination found in an area of the site that it solely operated.

 “Of all the areas investigated and remediated ... the trash burning area ... was the only area of the plant used solely by BRC; Dana never used this area during the time it operated the plant. Confining recovery of damages to the settlement agreement, and effecting the intent of the parties as stated therein, BRC should hold Dana harmless for these costs,” Pyle wrote for the panel.

“We find that the trial court erred by not confining its allocation of costs to the four corners of the settlement agreement. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s award of damages to Dana, but reverse the amount awarded. Dana is entitled to damages of $3,608.87 in investigative costs and administrative costs of $1,818.01, for a total damage award of $5,426.88,” Pyle wrote.

Prejudgment interest in the sum of $1,956.32 also was ordered, bringing the total to $7,383.20.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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