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Decomposition cleanup subject to lien law

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A decomposing body left in a Johnson County home has led the Indiana Court of Appeals to analyze the state mechanic's lien statute.

In a decision today in Midwest Biohazard Services LLC v. Hugh H. Rodgers and The Hugh C. Rodgers Trust, No. 41A05-0805-CV-290, a three-judge panel unanimously held that the lien statute's use of the word "repairs" should encompass work done by a biohazard cleanup company in 2007.

The elder Rodgers died sometime in 2007 at his Johnson County home, but his body wasn't discovered for several days. The decomposition resulted in fluids seeping from the body and into the carpet, subflooring, into the basement, and causing contaminants to be absorbed throughout the house. His son, Hugh Rodgers, contacted Midwest Biohazard and in September 2007 arranged a $13,500 contract to remove and dispose of the biohazard resulting from the decomposed body. Within a month, Rodgers notified the company he didn't intend to pay more than a deposit; the company eventually sued to foreclose on a mechanic's lien. The trial court dismissed Biohazard's claim to foreclose on the lien in April 2008.

On appeal, Biohazard argued that the trial court erred because the services it provided fell within the scope of the mechanic's lien statute as "repairs." Rodgers responded by arguing those services were merely cleaning services and the statute shouldn't apply.

"The word 'repair' has not been defined in the mechanic's lien statute," the Court of Appeals wrote, turning to dictionary definitions and noting that one definition is that the word means to "restore to a sound healthy state."

"The decontamination of the house performed by Biohazard clearly meets this latter definition of 'repair,' and we see no reason why the plain, ordinary, and usual meaning of repair would exclude restoring property 'to a sound healthy state,' as well as restoring by 'replacing a part or putting together what is torn or broken.'"

Looking at the purpose of the mechanic's lien statute, the court cited Moore-Mansfield Construction Co. v. Indianapolis, New Castle & Toledo Railway Co., 101 N.E. 296, 302 (1913), in which Indiana's justices held the law focused largely on whether the activities performed would increase a property's value.

"It takes no stretch of the imagination to recognize that a buyer would be willing to pay more for a house that was free from biohazard contaminants than she would be willing to pay for the same house in a contaminated state," Judge Patricia Riley wrote. "As such, the services allegedly performed ... undoubtedly increased the value of the house."

The court ruled the trial court erred in dismissing the claim and that an error existed in transferring venue from Johnson County to Jackson County, where the younger Rodgers lived and maintained the father's trust. The case has been reversed and remanded to Johnson Superior Judge Kim Van Valer.

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  1. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

  2. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  3. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

  4. The is putting restrictions on vaping just because big tobacco companies are losing money. http://vapingisthefuture.com

  5. Oh, and I should add ... the stigma JLAP attaches lasts forever. As my documents show, I had good reason to reject the many conflicted diagnoses for not thinking like the state wanted me to. BUT when I resisted and raised constitutional and even ADA "regarded as" arguments I was then denied licensed in Indiana for LIFE. As in until death does us part. Evidence in comments here: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/scotus-denies-cert-to-kansas-attorney-seeking-to-practice-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/40522 Resistance is futile, comrades.

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