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COA rules on negligence claims in library case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment today in favor of engineering and construction companies in a lawsuit filed by a central Indiana library, finding the economic-loss doctrine bars the library's negligence claims against the companies.

Whether the claims could be pursued because of an exception to the doctrine caused one judge to dissent.

The issue in The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library v. Charlier Clark & Linard, P.C. and Thornton Tomasetti Engineers, et al., No. 06A05-0804-CV-239, is whether the library's negligence claims against the companies as a result of delays and defects in the construction of an expanded central library in downtown Indianapolis are barred under the economic-loss doctrine.

The defendants in this case were hired directly by the architect of record in the project instead of the library, and the library never purchased any services directly from them.

After construction began, major defects were discovered in the underground parking lot that would also serve as structural foundation for the building. The flaws required suspension of work and substantial work to fix the defects. The delays allegedly cost the library nearly $50 million.

The library's suit asserts several claims against the companies, including that they negligently performed their services on the project. The trial court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment because the economic-loss doctrine barred the negligence claims.

The Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed summary judgment in favor of Charlier Clark & Linard on the library's negligence claim. The appellate court looked to Indiana and other jurisdictions' rulings on the economic-loss doctrine. The damages claimed by the library are "economic losses" that arose from the design and construction of the project, and didn't affect other property, so the claims aren't recoverable in tort, wrote Chief Judge John Baker.

In regards to the library's argument that it should be able to pursue its negligence claims because of certain exceptions to the doctrine, the appellate court found none were applicable in this case against CCL.

The majority held the claims against Thornton Thomasetti Engineers, which provided structural engineering services for the project, also didn't hold up under any of the exceptions. Judge Elaine Brown dissented because she believed there is a question of fact regarding imminent danger as to TTE and that summary judgment under the economic-loss doctrine was inappropriate.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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