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Judges rule on breach of contract lawsuit

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The City of Jeffersonville breached its contract with a company hired to maintain its sewer system by not adequately providing written notice before ending the contract.

Environmental Management Corporation filed an action against the City of Jeffersonville and its Sanitary Sewer Board alleging Jeffersonville breached its contract with EMC, violated Indiana’s Open Door Law, and acted in contempt of an agreed entry and order.

Based on the parties’ contract, written notice had to be given to the other party 90 days before terminating the contract, to allow the party to cure its performance. There were issues after EMC began operating the city’s sewer system, and a letter was sent by the city attorney to EMC asking for specific information, but it never detailed that the city would terminate the contract if problems were not rectified within 90 days. That letter, and one sent in August that said the city was terminating the contract, were authorized during an executive session of the sewer board held before the open board meeting. The city took over operations of the plant in December 2008.

EMC filed its suit, in which the judge ruled in favor of EMC, awarded damages to EMC, and ordered the city to pay attorney fees and costs.

In City of Jeffersonville, Indiana and City of Jeffersonville Sanitary Sewer Board v. Environmental Management Corporation, No. 10A01-1005-PL-217, the Court of Appeals agreed that the city did not provide sufficient written notice to EMC 90 days before terminating the contract. The city’s verbal comments at a regular sewer board meeting held prior to the first letter being sent do not count because they were oral and never recorded in the board’s minutes. In addition, the letter didn’t allege inadequate performance as required by the terms of the contract.

The judges reversed summary judgment for EMC regarding its Open Door Law claims, finding EMC waived those claims. EMC had a 30-day time limit to file its complaints, which it did not do. The time period begins when the plaintiff “knew or should have known” about the act or failure to act that had occurred. EMC had representatives attending every sewer board meeting, so it should have known under the principles of common knowledge and experience, that the two letters weren’t authorized at a public meeting, wrote Judge Patricia Riley. The two complaints filed regarding these letters were filed more than 30 days after the point when EMC should have known about a violation.

The trial court based its award of attorney fees in part on the Open Door Law violations, so the judges remanded for the trial court to recalculate those fees as well as only order the city to pay EMC costs related to filing fees and statutory witness fees.

The judges affirmed the finding the city was in contempt of an agreed entry between the parties to not interfere with EMC’s access to the sewer facilities while a preliminary injunction hearing was pending. The appellate court also affirmed the trial court’s decision to reduce EMC’s corporate support expenses from its losses during calculation of EMC’s damages.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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