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COA: Business is a nuisance to homeowners

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Despite modifications to a mycelium-drying business located adjacent to a farmhouse, the business is still a nuisance that deprives the homeowners from the free use and enjoyment of their property, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The appellate court reversed the Wabash Circuit Court's decision, which found that because Ted Parker had made modifications to his business, homeowners Randall Bonewitz and Russell Dellinger weren't entitled to a permanent injunction against the business. Bonewitz and Dellinger purchased the farmhouse from Parker in 1997; after the sale, Parker still owned the adjacent land and used it for farming hay. In 2003, he started a business that dries wet mycelium - a byproduct of the manufacture of food-grade citric acid - to sell for use in animal feed. The furnace is about 150 feet from the home and Parker received the proper permits to rezone his land from agricultural use to business/commercial use.

In 2007, the homeowners filed suit alleging the business is a nuisance because of the foul smells omitted, dust in the air, and constant trucking in of sawdust, which fuels the dryer for the mycelium. They sought a permanent injunction or damages. The trial court declined to enter a total preliminary injunction or damages, but ordered Parker be permanently enjoined from unloading sawdust outside the pole building.

In Bonewitz and Dellinger v. Parker, No. 85A04-0901-CV-16, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court's decision that the effect on Bonewitz and Dellinger's home has been "greatly reduced" by Parker's efforts to mitigate truck noise, dust, and vibrations from his business. The undisputed evidence shows they continue to live with a stench that permeates the house, they can't use their yard, or open their windows, wrote Judge Edward Najam.

"Those infringements are not occasional or incidental, and they are more than an annoyance or inconvenience. While the nuisance may have been partially ameliorated, it has not been abated," he wrote.

Parker's argument that the pair bought the home knowing they were in an agriculturally zoned area and they can't complain about the discomfort based on agricultural uses failed because Parker's company isn't agricultural; it's a business that required rezoning. The issue is the magnitude of the business and Parker even admitted only 10 percent of his production is for his own use, wrote the judge.

Instead of ordering permanent injunctive relief, which would probably destroy Parker's business, the Court of Appeals remanded to the trial court to determine if the homeowners can be made whole with a monetary judgment. If so, then it should consider the evidence of their damages, including damages for discomfort and annoyance, when coming up with an amount.

If the trial court determines Bonewitz and Dellinger can't be made whole with a money judgment, then the court shall issue the total, permanent injunction against Parker's business.

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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