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COA: exhaust administrative remedies before filing appeal

June 26, 2012

Because a manufacturer didn’t exhaust its administrative remedies regarding a challenge to a search of its Indianapolis facility by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed the manufacturer’s appeal.

In In Re The Matter of a Search Warrant Regarding the Following Real Estate, Sensient Flavors, LLC v. Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 49A02-1109-MC-844, the federal government had concerns about the use of flavoring chemicals, including diacetyl, at Sensient Flavors’ facility. The company makes flavoring for food and beverages. A union became concerned about possible respiratory problems and the use of the chemicals and asked for a health hazard evaluation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health. A report issued by the agency in 2011 found employees experienced respiratory conditions due to exposure to food-flavoring chemicals, including diacetyl.

The Indiana commissioner of labor petitioned for a search warrant in Marion Superior Court to conduct an administrative inspection of the facility. That warrant was amended and narrowed to only include the search of documents, records and areas associated with the use of certain substances. The trial court denied Sensient’s request to stay the execution of the search warrant.

IOSHA informed the trial court in February 2012 that the warrant had been fully executed and later filed a motion to dismiss Sensient’s appeal, arguing the matter was moot.

The judges focused not on the mootness argument but on the fact that Sensient had not exhausted its administrative remedies before taking action in court. The appellate court cited In re Establishment Inspection of Kohler Co., 935 F.2d 810 (7th Cir. 1991), a similar case out of Wisconsin, to find it is without jurisdiction to consider Sensient’s challenge to the warrant.

Judge Nancy Vaidik pointed out that Indiana’s Supreme Court has also emphasized the value of completing administrative proceedings before resorting to judicial review.

 

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