ILNews

Judges affirm dismissal of city’s counterclaim without prejudice

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The Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday that a dismissal based on the failure to provide an appraisal with an offer to purchase property for road work improvements was not an adjudication on the merits, allowing a city’s counterclaim for appropriation of the property to be dismissed without prejudice.

The city of Madison and Jefferson County entered into an interlocal agreement to improve Hutchinson Lane and needed about four acres of John Hutchinson’s land for temporary and permanent right-of-ways. The city was in charge of the road project.

The city offered Hutchinson around $25,000 for the property but didn’t include an appraisal. Hutchinson challenged the agreement between the city and county, after which Madison filed a counterclaim for appropriation of the property it needed for the project. The trial court held the agreement was valid and denied Hutchinson’s declaratory judgment action.

The trial court later dismissed the city’s counterclaim without prejudice and the city conceded that it didn’t comply with statute by not tendering an appraisal when it presented the acquisition offer.

In John A. Hutchinson v. The City of Madison, 39A01-1208-CC-394, the parties dispute whether the counterclaim should have been dismissed without prejudice. Hutchinson argued that the counterclaim should be dismissed with prejudice because a July 25, 2012, hearing was a “full-blown hearing” on the issue of whether the city complied with I.C. 32-24-1-3(c) and was an adjudication on the merits.

“We are not convinced that the failure to comply with Indiana Code Section 32-24-1-3(c) forever bars the state from acquiring that property so long as a property owner receives just compensation for the taking,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote. “This conclusion is supported by Indiana Code Section 32-24-1-8(d), which provides that, if a property owner objects to the proceedings and the objection is sustained, the complaint may be amended or the decision appealed. Although, as the parties acknowledge, the City cannot remedy the failure to provide an appraisal by amending the complaint, we believe this provision is indicative of the legislature’s intent to allow the City the opportunity to correct procedural errors and refile the complaint.”

The judges went on to find that given the city’s inherent authority to take private property and the statutory scheme for appropriating property, the dismissal based on the failure to provide an appraisal with an offer to purchase was not an adjudication on the merits.

They also held that the trial court properly determined that the interlocal agreement was valid.



 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

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  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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