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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. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  2. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  3. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  4. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  5. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

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