ILNews

Decomposition cleanup subject to lien law

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.

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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

ADVERTISEMENT