ILNews

Water company not a political subdivision

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The company that provides the water utility to the City of Indianapolis is not a political subdivision of the state, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today.

Veolia Water Indianapolis LLC claimed it was entitled to summary judgment in Michael Harrison’s claim against it because it is a political subdivision of the state. Under a management agreement, Indianapolis pays Veolia nearly $40 million a year, plus more money if the company meets certain incentives. Harrison, while working as a Veolia subcontractor, received a severe electrical shock from an uninsulated overhead electrical line. He sued Veolia asserting negligence and didn’t provide any other notice to Veolia as required under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

Because it believed it is a political subdivision, and thus subject to the 180-day notice required under the act, Veolia moved for and was granted summary judgment.

Veolia doesn’t fall under the express statutory definition of a political subdivision but claimed it is sufficiently akin to a governmental entity or political subdivision of the state that is entitled to ITCA’s procedural protections.

After reviewing the ITCA and the history of sovereign immunity in Indiana, the Court of Appeals concluded otherwise in Michael Harrison v. Veolia Water Indianapolis, LLC, No. 49A04-0912-CV-722. Even though the appellate court had held Indianapolis Water Co., the predecessor to Veolia, was a governmental agency for immunity purposes under common law principles in Metal Working Lubricants Co. v. Indianapolis Water Co., 746 N.E.2d 352 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001), the Court of Appeals declined to hold Veolia is a governmental entity under the ITCA.

“The most fundamental basis for this holding is that the courts of Indiana have never recognized the provision of utility services as a power or function ‘governmental in nature’ that gave rise to sovereign immunity, even when a governmental unit was operating the utility, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. If the General Assembly wanted to change this arrangement, it could have done so when it enacted the ITCA by expressly including utilities within the definition of “political subdivision.”

“Simply put, we cannot discern a legislative intent to shield or provide special protections to for-profit enterprises, including ones that are part of a multi-national, multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, because they provide services to a governmental entity,” the judge wrote.

In addition, the Indiana Supreme Court has plainly indicated that the operation of a utility, whether by a municipality or private entity is a private business matter, even if the utility is subject to extensive regulation by the state.

The issue was remanded for further proceedings.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  2. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  3. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  4. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  5. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

ADVERTISEMENT