ILNews

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

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I need an experienced attorney to handle a breach of contract matter. Kindly respond for more details. Graham Young

  2. I thought the slurs were the least grave aspects of her misconduct, since they had nothing to do with her being on the bench. Why then do I suspect they were the focus? I find this a troubling trend. At least she was allowed to keep her law license.

  3. Section 6 of Article I of the Indiana Constitution is pretty clear and unequivocal: "Section 6. No money shall be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious or theological institution."

  4. Video pen? Nice work, "JW"! Let this be a lesson and a caution to all disgruntled ex-spouses (or soon-to-be ex-spouses) . . . you may think that altercation is going to get you some satisfaction . . . it will not.

  5. 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."

ADVERTISEMENT