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Summary judgment affirmed for dairy farm

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The Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of a confined feeding operation in a dispute between the dairy farm and its neighbor over a tract of land and the impact of the farm on the neighbor's property.

Donald J. and Jacquelyn Lindsey v. Johannes DeGroot, Egberdien DeGroot, and DeGroot Dairy, LLC,  No. 35A02-0805-CV-470, is the second appeal involving the Lindseys and DeGroots that has come before the appellate court. Various agricultural organizations, including the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the Indiana Professional Dairy Association, filed amicus briefs in the case.

DeGroot Dairy owns a farm field directly north of Donald and Jacquelyn Lindsey's property, with a grass strip running along the boundary. DeGroot Dairy hired a surveyor, who determined DeGroot was the owner of the northern half of the land and the Lindseys owned the southern half.

More than 18 months after DeGroot began his dairy farm, the Lindseys filed a suit to enjoin the farm from further operation and for compensation for nuisance, negligence, trespass, criminal mischief, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the dairy, finding Indiana's Right to Farm Act applied to the case and barred the nuisance claims. It also found no genuine issues of material fact existed on the other claims.

The Court of Appeals rejected the Lindseys' claim the Indiana Right to Farm Act is unconstitutional and effectively grants an easement to the dairy over the Lindseys' property and found the act barred their nuisance claim. The farm had been in operation for more than a year when they filed suit; the act bars the nuisance suit unless there has been a significant change in the type of farm operation. But because they didn't raise this change before the trial court, the issue is waived here, wrote Judge Cale Bradford.

The Lindseys also failed to prove the claimed nuisance was from the negligent operation of DeGroot Dairy. They didn't designate any evidence suggesting alleged statutory violations by the farm were the proximate cause of their claimed injuries and their own testimony on the matter showed a lack of connection between the farm's alleged 2002 CFO violation, which was later dismissed, and the Lindseys' claimed injury.

On their trespass claim, the Lindseys didn't show any evidence to dispute the survey findings regarding ownership of the grass tract of land. They also couldn't prove the dairy farm recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally damaged their property, which is needed to succeed on their criminal mischief claim. Also, as a matter of law, the dairy farm's actions don't constitute "outrageous" behavior as defined in the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. As a result, summary judgment in favor of DeGroot Dairy on these claims was proper, wrote Judge Bradford.

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