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Justices: summary judgment inappropriate on some claims in contaminated waste suit

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The Indiana Supreme Court has affirmed in part and reversed in part the grant of summary judgment to various defendants involved in a landowner’s lawsuit seeking damages after a steel fabrication company deposited solid waste onto his property.

In Hugh David Reed v. Edward Reid; Reid Machinery, Inc.; North Vernon Drop Forge, Inc.; Jennings Manufacturing Co., Inc.; Reid Metals, Inc.; Glen White; Douglas Dibble; et al., 40S01-1107-PL-436, Hugh David Reed sought clean fill for his property on which he operates an auction barn and leases a portion to a nursing facility. In 2004, Reed made arrangements to have North Vernon Drop Forge deliver fill to his parking lot. While it was being dumped, Reed saw unexpected materials in the fill and suspended the dumping of Forge fill on his land.

After this incident, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management cited Forge for violations of environmental laws at its site. A test showed contamination on Reed’s property. IDEM later sent a notice of violation letter to Reed for violations of environmental laws stemming from the Forge fill. Reed hired a company to remove the contaminated soil and then filed a 14-count complaint against Forge, its employees Roger Crane, Douglas Dibble and Gen White, Forge owner Edward Reid, along with three other companies Reid owns.

The defendants and Reed moved for summary judgment on his complaints, including environmental legal action, illegal dumping, and trespass. The trial court denied Reed’s motions and granted the defendants’ motions as to all claims, leaving for trial only Reed’s negligence claims and the claims of potential liability against Reid individually and Reid Machinery.

In the 35-page decision authored by Justice Robert Rucker, among other things, the justices affirmed the denial of summary judgment for Reed on his environmental legal action claim and reversed the grant of summary judgment for the defendants on the same claim. They also reversed summary judgment for the defendants on Reed’s claim for illegal dumping. The Rule 56 materials presented to the trial court demonstrated at the very least a dispute question of material fact on whether Reed consented to the dumping of solid waste on his property, Rucker wrote.

They found questions for the jury to decide regarding the nuisance count, so they reversed summary judgment for the defendants as well as on the trespass claims.

The high court affirmed summary judgment for the defendants on Reed’s unjust enrichment claim, as well as ruled it is up to a fact-finder to determine whether the separate corporate identities of Reid’s companies may be disregarded so that liability may be imposed on Reid personally, Jennings Manufacturing, and/or Reid Machinery.

 

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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