ILNews

Judges rule on breach of contract lawsuit

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrint

The City of Jeffersonville breached its contract with a company hired to maintain its sewer system by not adequately providing written notice before ending the contract.

Environmental Management Corporation filed an action against the City of Jeffersonville and its Sanitary Sewer Board alleging Jeffersonville breached its contract with EMC, violated Indiana’s Open Door Law, and acted in contempt of an agreed entry and order.

Based on the parties’ contract, written notice had to be given to the other party 90 days before terminating the contract, to allow the party to cure its performance. There were issues after EMC began operating the city’s sewer system, and a letter was sent by the city attorney to EMC asking for specific information, but it never detailed that the city would terminate the contract if problems were not rectified within 90 days. That letter, and one sent in August that said the city was terminating the contract, were authorized during an executive session of the sewer board held before the open board meeting. The city took over operations of the plant in December 2008.

EMC filed its suit, in which the judge ruled in favor of EMC, awarded damages to EMC, and ordered the city to pay attorney fees and costs.

In City of Jeffersonville, Indiana and City of Jeffersonville Sanitary Sewer Board v. Environmental Management Corporation, No. 10A01-1005-PL-217, the Court of Appeals agreed that the city did not provide sufficient written notice to EMC 90 days before terminating the contract. The city’s verbal comments at a regular sewer board meeting held prior to the first letter being sent do not count because they were oral and never recorded in the board’s minutes. In addition, the letter didn’t allege inadequate performance as required by the terms of the contract.

The judges reversed summary judgment for EMC regarding its Open Door Law claims, finding EMC waived those claims. EMC had a 30-day time limit to file its complaints, which it did not do. The time period begins when the plaintiff “knew or should have known” about the act or failure to act that had occurred. EMC had representatives attending every sewer board meeting, so it should have known under the principles of common knowledge and experience, that the two letters weren’t authorized at a public meeting, wrote Judge Patricia Riley. The two complaints filed regarding these letters were filed more than 30 days after the point when EMC should have known about a violation.

The trial court based its award of attorney fees in part on the Open Door Law violations, so the judges remanded for the trial court to recalculate those fees as well as only order the city to pay EMC costs related to filing fees and statutory witness fees.

The judges affirmed the finding the city was in contempt of an agreed entry between the parties to not interfere with EMC’s access to the sewer facilities while a preliminary injunction hearing was pending. The appellate court also affirmed the trial court’s decision to reduce EMC’s corporate support expenses from its losses during calculation of EMC’s damages.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

ADVERTISEMENT