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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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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

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