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Sewer district owed refund in easement dispute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered the White Circuit Court clerk to refund the thousands of dollars a sewer district overpaid in damages for easements on a couple’s property to construct sewers. The appellate court held that the trial court improperly admitted the court-appointed appraisal report.

Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District filed a complaint for appropriation of easement for two permanent sewer easements and two temporary construction ones on two plots of land owned by Robert and Paula Teumer. The couple appeared pro se. The trial court appointed three appraisers to assess the damages to which the Teumers were entitled; the appraisal said the couple was owed $5,434. Twin Lakes paid it to the clerk and challenged the appraisers’ report. The clerk sent the money to the Teumers three days later by error.

The court ultimately decided the Teumers were owed just $5,000 and ordered the clerk to refund $434. The sewer district appealed in Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District v. Robert W. Teumer and Paula K. Teumer, 91A04-1212-PL-638, claiming the judge was improperly influenced by the Teumers because they appeared pro se and that judicial notice was an improper means for admitting the court-appointed appraisers’ report.

The trial court may not admit evidence on its own motion where it would not otherwise be able to do so, in order to not “hold it against” a pro se party, as the judge said in this case, Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote. Pro se litigants are to be held to the same legal standards as licensed attorneys. In addition, judicial notice was not an appropriate avenue for admission of the appraisers’ report because the amount of damages was in dispute. Twin Lakes introduced an appraisal that valued the damages at just $950.

There is insufficient evidence to support the $5,000 award to the Teumers because the court-appointed appraisal report was improperly judicially noticed. The report also had several other problems, including that it makes several claims to be a fee-simple appraisal and not an easement take.

Because the only other evidence admitted regarding damages was the report by Twin Lakes’ appraiser valuing the damages at $950, and whose testimony was uncontroverted, the judges ordered the $950 judgment in favor of the Teumers. The clerk is responsible for refunding the overpayment to Twin Lakes. The clerk may then try to recover the overpayment from the Teumers, Robb pointed out, because the money should still be in the hands of the clerk.
 

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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