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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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