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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

ADVERTISEMENT