COA: Case for relief against INDOT may continue

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals allowed a local government entity to continue seeking relief against the Indiana Department of Transportation Friday, holding that the local unit of government had standing to seek both injunctive and declaratory relief.

When the Indiana Department of Transportation performed construction and repair work on State Highway 27 in Union County in 2010 and 2011, it allegedly damaged septic systems on the properties of three private landowners as a result of improper or negligent work, which “may (have impacted) other properties and may (have implicated) a broader public health and safety concern … .” The county board of commissioners asked INDOT to investigate and remedy the damage, but INDOT failed to do so.

The commissioners filed for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against INDOT and Brandye Hendrickson in her official capacity of INDOT commissioner in July 2015. The motion sought an order declaring that State Highway 27 and any associated storm drain was the responsibility of INDOT and not the county and compelling INDOT to immediately remedy any negligent work that caused septic or public health issues.

INDOT moved to dismiss, arguing that the county lacked standing. The commissioners responded with an affidavit from Ron Parker, the county sanitarian, who stated “the highway repair has resulted in raw sewage flowing outside appropriate septic and drainage systems.”

The Union Circuit Court granted INDOT’s motion to dismiss on the basis of a lack of standing, but did not indicate whether Parker’s affidavit was considered. The county moved to correct error, and INDOT requested that Parker’s affidavit be stricken and the motion to correct error be denied. The trial court denied the motion to correct error but did not expressly rule on the motion to strike.

In the Indiana Court of Appeals’ reversal, Judge Michael Barnes first wrote that the panel had determined that the appeal should be reviewed as a Trial Rule 12(B)(6) dismissal, not a Trial Rule 56 dismissal, because the trial court erred when it did not make clear whether it was considering Parker’s affidavit. Thus, because the review proceeded as a 12(B)(6) dismissal, the appellate panel disregarded Parker’s affidavit. Barnes wrote that on remand, either party could file for summary judgment under Trial Rule 56.

In regard to the county’s motion for declaratory judgment, Barnes wrote that the commissioners were entitled to seek declaratory relief. The appellate court found that because INDOT is required to designate which roads constitute the state highway system and also to maintain maps of the highway system, “it should be possible to determine and issue a declaration as to who bears responsibility for State Highway 27 and its drainage system.”

Further, Barnes wrote that the county commissioners had standing to seek injunctive relief, even though the board did not suffer a direct injury as a result of INDOT’s actions, because the public standing doctrine allows actions against governmental activities even if the plaintiff does not have a special interest in the outcome of litigation different from that of the general public.

The panel also found that the commissioners had standing under the associational standing doctrine, which holds that an “association” – here, the county – can sue on behalf of its members if the members would individually have standing to sue yet would not be required to participate in the association’s suit, and if the interests the suit seeks to protect are relevant to the organization’s purpose.

The case is The Board of Commissioners of Union County, Indiana v. Brandye Hendrickson, in her official capacity as Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation, and the State of Indiana, 81A01-1603-Pl-696.


Post a comment to this story

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
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....