Fight over Knightstown demolition sent back to trial court

A man who owns a building on Knightstown’s Main Street can proceed with his lawsuit after the town lost some rulings in its favor on interlocutory appeal.

Dudley Wainscott owns a historic building called the Old Lodge in the town about 38 miles east of Indianapolis. The town owned an adjacent building called the Bullet Hole that shared an exterior wall with Wainscott’s building. When the town demolished the Bullet Hole in April 2013, Wainscott complained his property was damaged and potentially polluted by mercury, among other things.

In February 2015, Wainscott sued the town and the demolition company. His suit made an equitable claim against the town, claimed breach of contract against the town, sought access to records from the town, and claimed nuisance and negligence against the town and the demolition contractor. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Knightstown on all claims except Wainscott’s nuisance and breach of contract claims.

In finding for the town on three of five claims, the court found that Wainscott had not complied with the notice provisions of the Indiana Tort Claims Act before suing the town, but the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled otherwise Thursday.

“Wainscott’s April 2013 letter made the Town aware that its demolition of the adjacent building had significantly damaged his property and specifically demanded repairs that the Town needed to perform,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel in Town of Knightstown v. Dudley Wainscott, 33A04-1604-PL-771.

“Wainscott substantially complied with the ITCA notice requirements, and the trial court erred when it granted the Town’s motion for summary judgment on his negligence and equity claims,” Barnes wrote. “The trial court properly denied summary judgment on Wainscott’s nuisance claim, but it erred when it denied summary judgment on Wainscott’s breach of contract claim.” The court held that a councilman’s pledge to fix any damages to Wainscott’s building did not form a contract, so the town was entitled to summary judgment on the breach of contract claim.


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