The Indiana Court of Appeals has again rejected a Monroe County resident’s requested preliminary injunction that would prevent logging from taking place on land near his home.
A divided Indiana Court of Appeals in March 2019 reversed a preliminary injunction that halted logging on more than 200 acres of forested property near Lake Monroe owned by William J. Huff II and Nicole E. Huff.
The Huffs – whose property partially adjoins Lake Monroe and sits adjacent to The Shores residential subdivision – are successors in interest to a granted easement that allows them to use the neighborhood’s principal road and part of the first lot to access their real estate.
Their use of the easement was limited to construction, development and the use of single-family residences on the property. But when logging trucks rolled in to take down timber in certain parts of the Huff property, Shores resident Michael Cain moved for a preliminary injunction to stop the logging.
Huff asserted that the trees were being harvested in preparing for the future use of the land in accordance with a stewardship plan that had been developed in concert with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry, but the Monroe Circuit Court ultimately granted the prohibiting injunction.
A split appellate panel later lifted the injunction, but when the Huffs began using the easement to log trees on another parcel of land attached to its real estate called the Chumley parcel, Cain filed a second motion for preliminary injunction. The Indiana Court of Appeals denied his motion for rehearing, and the trial court subsequently denied Cain’s two new motions regarding the additional portion of the Huff’s real estate.
On appeal, Cain first argued that the trial court should have issued a modified version of the first preliminary injunction based on the law of the case doctrine and the COA’s first opinion. But the appellate court found Cain was incorrect in thinking that the trial court was somehow required to make the same findings or reach the same result when considering it anew.
“While the Huff I Court included the Chumley Parcel in its definition of the Huff Real Estate, the Court did not squarely consider the Huffs’ use of the easements for the Chumley Parcel, which is not directly benefited by the Grant of Easement. Consequently, the law of the case doctrine did not offer guidance to the trial court as it considered Cain’s Chumley Motion,” Judge John Baker wrote for the appellate court.
It further rejected Cain’s second argument that the trial court should have issued a new preliminary injunction related to the Chumley parcel, first finding that the Huffs could not have committed a trespass even if their use of the easement exceeded their authority. Additionally, it noted that Cain did not establish a likelihood of success on the merits, any threatened harm against him was minimal, and that the public interest was more directly and significantly served by the denial of the preliminary injunction.
“In sum, we find that all four factors weigh in favor of the Huffs and against the preliminary injunction. Therefore, the trial court did not err by denying Cain’s motions,” the appellate court concluded.
It therefore affirmed and remanded for further proceedings in the case of