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Justices rule on casino land-ownership dispute

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A land-ownership dispute about an Ohio River riverboat-casino docking site is the subject of an Indiana Supreme Court ruling today, touching on land deeds from the 1800s and who had the right to use and give away ownership of less than an acre of land.

Justices issued their decision in Gloria A. Murray, et al. v. City of Lawrenceburg, et al., No. 15S04-0907-CV-310, which stems from a suit against the city government, a local conservancy district, and the Indiana Gaming Company that runs the Argosy Casino and Hotel in Lawrenceburg. The justices held that inverse condemnation is the sole remedy for a governmental act purporting to exercise all land-ownership rights, and that a six-year statute of limitations for trespass applies to that type of claim. The ruling reverses and remands a decision by Dearborn Circuit Judge James D. Humphrey denying a motion for judgment on the pleadings by the city and gaming company.

The case involves a 0.768-acre parcel of land situated inside a larger 32-acre parcel within Lawrenceburg that houses the riverboat casino and hotel. The plaintiffs claimed to be successors in interest based on an 1886 deed for the smaller parcel, which didn't have any established owner or ownership claims between 1941 and 1995 when it was part of the Lawrenceburg Conservancy District. But the district leased the larger area to the city and ultimately relied on an 1865 deed to include the smaller parcel, ultimately subleasing the property to Indian Gaming in 1995. The casino opened in late 1997, but it wasn't until November 2005 that Gloria Murray and other property owners sued the city, conservancy district, and gaming company over the land. The suit sought to quiet title to the disputed parcel, eject the defendants, and set aside the other deeds and leases, as well as compensate plaintiffs for lost rent under negligence and unjust-enrichment theories.

Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings under Indiana Trial Rule 12(C), arguing that even if plaintiffs owned the parcel, the only cause of action available was inverse condemnation and that was barred by a 6-year statute of limitations. Judge Humphrey denied the jury trial demand and denied the motion. The Indiana Court of Appeals initially declined to accept the appeal, but ultimately it did. In March 2009, the panel affirmed and reversed parts of Judge Humphrey's decision - upholding the judgment motion denial but reversing on the timeliness aspect and granting a jury trial demand on those claims.

Chief Judge John Baker dissented, saying the result could effectively preclude most, if not all reverse condemnation actions in the future.

In their eight-page ruling, the justices rejected the plaintiffs' claims that inverse condemnation is inappropriate because the land title is clouded. Relying on caselaw about eminent domain and injunctive relief about land being taken for a public purpose, the justices found that allowing alternative remedies would circumvent those provisions. The state, as well as other judicial jurisdictions, have previously determined that casino projects and infrastructure improvements constitute public use.

While no limitation period applies to eminent domain proceedings by the state, this case doesn't involve an action from the government about any eminent domain and so the trespass or inverse condemnation statute of limitation applies, and it's barred by Indiana Code § 34-11-2-7.

"Accordingly, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the six year limitation for trespass applies to inverse condemnation actions," Justice Theodore Boehm wrote for the court. "Plaintiffs' action accrued when they could have brought a claim for inverse condemnation. Giving plaintiffs the benefit of the doubt, the last possible date the action could have accrued was December 1997, when Indiana Gaming began operations at the site. Plaintiffs did not file this suit until Nov. 21, 2005, almost eight years after the action accrued."

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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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