Judge orders new Cinergy trial

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A federal judge in Indianapolis has ordered a new trial for Cinergy Corp because the energy company now owned by Duke Energy committed misconduct earlier this year and tainted the liability phase of the litigation.

U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney issued a 29-page decision in U.S., et al. v. Cinergy Corp, et al., 1:99-cv-1693, on Thursday, unsealing it and making the ruling public Dec. 22.

"In summary, the Court concludes that Cinergy's misrepresentations about payment of one of its fact witnesses ... amounts to misconduct," Judge McKinney wrote. "Because of such misconduct, the liability trial in this matter was tainted and Plaintiffs' request for a new trial on liability is granted."

This second-phase litigation stems from a two-week federal trial in the spring, the nation's first to go before a jury on the issue of whether slight modifications at coal-fired power plants triggered the need for new pollution control equipment at the facilities.

A jury found the Wabash Power plant in Terre Haute had violated the U.S. Clean Air Act when the company improved the facility but didn't install modern pollution controls, as required by law. The jury found that "a reasonable power plant operator" would not have expected the improvements to cause additional sulfur dioxide pollution and a need for extra controls.

That unanimous decision was part of a larger ruling involving six plants, including two others in Indiana. The company won decisions on 10 of 14 projects at the those plants, and the four it lost involved work at plants in Terre Haute between 1989 and 1992.

In the remedy phase that is central to this court decision, the issue became how Cinergy represented one of its key witnesses during discovery and at trial. One of Cinergy's central defense themes was on the experts from both sides - the plaintiffs' "hired experts" versus the defense "engineer" witnesses, who had differing views on what kind of repair and modernization projects may have been happening at the power plants.

Judge McKinney found that Cinergy didn't disclose that it had a consulting agreement with a witness and misrepresented that person's relationship with the company - whether he was a retired, unpaid former employee or a paid consultant. Plaintiffs argued that it relied on that misrepresentation as a key strategy, and that may have influenced the liability trial.

Ultimately, Judge McKinney wrote that it's difficult to determine the extent of the unfairness in the process.

A bench trial is set for Feb. 2, 2009.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues