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Court rules for city, water company in suit over frozen hydrants

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The Indiana Court of Appeals found that the city of Indianapolis and water company – which contracts with the city to operate the water utility – are entitled to common law immunity from a lawsuit brought by a restaurant and its insurers after a fire destroyed a Texas Roadhouse restaurant. The plaintiffs argued that the frozen hydrants, which delayed firefighters’ ability to put out the fire, were a result of the hydrants not being properly closed by private parties who paid the defendants for water use.

Texas Roadhouse and two of its insurers – National Trust Insurance Co. and FCCI Insurance Co. – sued Indianapolis, its department of waterworks and Veolia Water Indianapolis LLC. The trial court partially denied the city’s motion to dismiss and Veolia’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. Both defendants claimed they were entitled to immunity.

The trial court concluded that the commercial sale of water took their actions outside the scope of common law immunity for firefighting. The trial court also held that the insurers were third-party beneficiaries of Veolia’s contract with the city.

On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed, finding both are entitled to common law immunity because the common law rule turns on the purpose for which the water is being used, not the underlying cause of the lack of water, wrote Judge Terry Crone. The judges cited precedent on immunity in firefighting cases that bar claims for fire damages stemming from an inadequate supply of water or inoperable fire hydrants.

Crone noted that although the appellate court is bound by settled precedent on whether Veolia is entitled to immunity, the insurers have presented several cogent reasons for reconsidering this policy, including that insulating Veolia from liability for its alleged failure to monitor or maintain may actually create a disincentive to maintain the hydrants.  Since the last time the Supreme Court addressed immunity for firefighting, public-private contracts have become more prevalent and more complex, the appellate court pointed out.  

“Were we writing on a clean slate, we might adopt a different rule; however, we are bound by supreme court precedent,” Crone wrote.

The judges also found that the insurers are not third-party beneficiaries to the management agreement entered into by the city and Veolia, so they can’t pursue a breach of contract claim. The management agreement contains a section that explicitly disavows any intent to create third-party beneficiaries.

 

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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  3. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  4. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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