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Reversal: Neighbors may intervene in environmental cleanup case

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Businesses neighboring an Indianapolis industrial property that was forced to clean up hazardous chemicals were improperly shut out of litigation involving the city and state, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

In Moran Electric Service, Inc., and Threaded Rod Company, Inc. v. Commissioner, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, City of Indianapolis, Ertel Manufacturing Corp., 49A02-1305-MI-432, the panel ruled Moran and Threaded Rod have an immediate and direct interest in the proceedings and that Marion Superior Judge Michael Keele erred in determining the court didn’t have subject matter jurisdiction. The panel remanded the matter for further proceedings.

The lawsuit involves environmental cleanup ordered for the Ertel property and litigation dating to 2008, when Indianapolis sued Ertel to recoup the environmental cleanup costs. The former industrial property in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood was contaminated with lead, petroleum, asbestos, PCBs and other toxins.

As the cleanup proceeded along administrative and court tracks, Ertel, the city and state settled, and the court approved. Insurance ultimately provided $1 million. Of that, $140,000 reimbursed Indiana Department of Environmental Management for its cleanup fees, and $860,000 was placed in escrow for contingencies. IDEM in 2012 released $846,000 to the city for future cleanup costs.

Moran and Threaded Rod claimed IDEM’s settlement with Ertel required the agency to address contaminants that flowed from the Ertel site onto their properties, but the court denied their motions to intervene.

“The heart of the issue is whether the trial court properly ordered the remaining $846,000 in funds distributed to the City, which is dependent upon whether IDEM properly issued a (No Further Action) Letter regarding the Ertel property,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel.

“The current parties of the two civil actions are IDEM, the City, Ertel, and various insurance companies. Ertel, having been released from liability, has no incentive to represent Appellants’ interests. IDEM’s and the City’s interests in issuing the NFA Letter and distributing the remaining escrowed funds to the City, also appear to conflict with Appellants’ interests in using the remaining escrowed funds to remediate Appellants’ properties,” Barnes wrote.

“Consequently, we conclude that the representation of Appellants' interests by the existing parties is inadequate. In sum, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion by denying Appellants’ motions to intervene.”


 

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  1. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  2. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  3. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  4. Different rules for different folks....

  5. I would strongly suggest anyone seeking mediation check the experience of the mediator. There are retired judges who decide to become mediators. Their training and experience is in making rulings which is not the point of mediation.

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