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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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  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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