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Sewer district owed refund in easement dispute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered the White Circuit Court clerk to refund the thousands of dollars a sewer district overpaid in damages for easements on a couple’s property to construct sewers. The appellate court held that the trial court improperly admitted the court-appointed appraisal report.

Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District filed a complaint for appropriation of easement for two permanent sewer easements and two temporary construction ones on two plots of land owned by Robert and Paula Teumer. The couple appeared pro se. The trial court appointed three appraisers to assess the damages to which the Teumers were entitled; the appraisal said the couple was owed $5,434. Twin Lakes paid it to the clerk and challenged the appraisers’ report. The clerk sent the money to the Teumers three days later by error.

The court ultimately decided the Teumers were owed just $5,000 and ordered the clerk to refund $434. The sewer district appealed in Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District v. Robert W. Teumer and Paula K. Teumer, 91A04-1212-PL-638, claiming the judge was improperly influenced by the Teumers because they appeared pro se and that judicial notice was an improper means for admitting the court-appointed appraisers’ report.

The trial court may not admit evidence on its own motion where it would not otherwise be able to do so, in order to not “hold it against” a pro se party, as the judge said in this case, Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote. Pro se litigants are to be held to the same legal standards as licensed attorneys. In addition, judicial notice was not an appropriate avenue for admission of the appraisers’ report because the amount of damages was in dispute. Twin Lakes introduced an appraisal that valued the damages at just $950.

There is insufficient evidence to support the $5,000 award to the Teumers because the court-appointed appraisal report was improperly judicially noticed. The report also had several other problems, including that it makes several claims to be a fee-simple appraisal and not an easement take.

Because the only other evidence admitted regarding damages was the report by Twin Lakes’ appraiser valuing the damages at $950, and whose testimony was uncontroverted, the judges ordered the $950 judgment in favor of the Teumers. The clerk is responsible for refunding the overpayment to Twin Lakes. The clerk may then try to recover the overpayment from the Teumers, Robb pointed out, because the money should still be in the hands of the clerk.
 

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  1. 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

  2. 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!!!

  3. 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.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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