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Summary judgment upheld in contamination case

July 30, 2012

The former owners of a Beech Grove shopping plaza that once contained a laundry and dry cleaning business that contaminated soil and groundwater cannot be held liable due to the statute of limitations, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The Peniel Group and Beech Grove Holdings LLC have owned and managed Churchman Hill Plaza since September 2005. Beech Grove Holdings filed a complaint against the former owners in 2008, after an assessment found the dry-cleaning solvent tetrachloroethene, known as PCE, more than 10 years after the last use of the dry-cleaning equipment.

Prior spills had been remediated through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and the trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants, finding the statute of limitations had run out under Indiana’s Environmental Legal Action statutes adopted in 1988.

A unanimous appeals court ruling written by Senior Judge Carr Darden held that the statute of limitations for an action under those laws must be initiated within six years.

“Beech Grove Holdings’s predecessor-in-interest knew of the contamination of the site for at least eight years before Beech Grove Holdings commenced the action. We therefore find that Beech Grove Holdings is barred from bringing its claim under the ELA,” Darden wrote, affirming the court’s summary judgment for Kenneth G. and Linda A. Schaefer, Betty Benefiel, Janet Beeler, and Charles and Beth Dodson.    

 

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