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COA: Suit against sewer district isn’t a public lawsuit

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The Spencer Circuit Court erred in finding a lawsuit filed by property owners challenging the requirement they connect to a new sewer system is a public lawsuit and the property owners must pay $9 million in bond to proceed with the suit, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

In Steven Buse, et al. v. Trustees of the Luce Township Regional Sewer District, No. 74A05-1009-PL-590, Steven Buse and other property owners brought an interlocutory appeal of the trial court’s holding that four counts of the owners’ complaint constitute a public lawsuit against Luce Township Regional Sewer District under Indiana Code 34-6-2-124. The property owners filed the suit, claiming the sewer district was installing a new sewer near their properties and required the property owners to tie into the line at their own expense. The property owners all had functioning septic tank soil absorption systems. The property owners also alleged that they would have to pay more than the homeowners who did grant the sewer system easements over their property.

The trial court relied on I.C. 34-6-2-124 to find the lawsuit was a public lawsuit and ordered the property owners post a $9 million in bond within 10 days of the order.

But the trial court didn’t determine whether the property owners were pursuing the lawsuit as citizens or as taxpayers. This is an important distinction that needs to be made by the court, as spelled out by the Indiana Supreme Court in Dible v. City of Lafayette, 713 N.E.2d 269 (Ind. 1999). The justices held that an action by an individual landowner seeking to protect his or her private interest in property doesn’t constitute the basis for a public lawsuit.

The plain language of the complaint shows that the property owners didn’t bring the suit in their capacity as taxpayers, wrote Judge Edward Najam, so the trial court’s findings don’t support its conclusions that the complaint is a public lawsuit.

“We also hold that the trial court’s order that the Property Owners’ claims are within the ambit of the public lawsuit statute misapplies the statute,” he wrote. “… the trial court focused only on the language of the statute. But, as summarized in Dible, the controlling factor is whether the Property Owners seek to protect public or private interests.”

The appellate judges also rejected the sewer district’s claim that the private interests of the property owners are so commingled with the public interests that the public lawsuit aspect of the counts should trump the private interests. The convergence of private interests with public interests isn’t enough in itself to convert an action that doesn’t otherwise qualify into a public lawsuit, wrote Judge Najam.

The COA reversed and remanded for further proceedings on the claims, noting that nothing in the opinion shall be taken as comment on the merit of those claims.

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  1. First comment on this thread is a fitting final comment on this thread, as that the MCBA never answered Duncan's fine question, and now even Eric Holder agrees that the MCBA was in material error as to the facts: "I don't get it" from Duncan December 1, 2014 5:10 PM "The Grand Jury met for 25 days and heard 70 hours of testimony according to this article and they made a decision that no crime occurred. On what basis does the MCBA conclude that their decision was "unjust"? What special knowledge or evidence does the MCBA have that the Grand Jury hearing this matter was unaware of? The system that we as lawyers are sworn to uphold made a decision that there was insufficient proof that officer committed a crime. How can any of us say we know better what was right than the jury that actually heard all of the the evidence in this case."

  2. wow is this a bunch of bs! i know the facts!

  3. MCBA .... time for a new release about your entire membership (or is it just the alter ego) being "saddened and disappointed" in the failure to lynch a police officer protecting himself in the line of duty. But this time against Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation: "WASHINGTON — Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/us/justice-department-ferguson-civil-rights-darren-wilson.html?ref=us&_r=0

  4. Dr wail asfour lives 3 hours from the hospital,where if he gets an emergency at least he needs three hours,while even if he is on call he should be in a location where it gives him max 10 minutes to be beside the patient,they get paid double on their on call days ,where look how they handle it,so if the death of the patient occurs on weekend and these doctors still repeat same pattern such issue should be raised,they should be closer to the patient.on other hand if all the death occured on the absence of the Dr and the nurses handle it,the nurses should get trained how to function appearntly they not that good,if the Dr lives 3 hours far from the hospital on his call days he should sleep in the hospital

  5. It's a capital offense...one for you Latin scholars..

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