COA to hear arguments in 3 cases Tuesday

The Court of Appeals of Indiana is preparing to hear arguments in cases involving solar farms, eminent domain and insurance coverage next week.

The appellate court will hear arguments Tuesday in Mammoth Solar, aka Starke Solar v. Connie Ehrlich, et al., 701 Niles, LLC v. AEP Indiana Michigan Transmission Company, Inc., et al. and Donald Kearschner v. American Family Insurance.

In Mammoth Solar, the Pulaski County Board of Zoning Appeals in 2020 approved Mammoth Solar’s application to construct a solar energy farm on 4,511 acres of farmland in the northern Indiana county. A group of citizens with homes or property near the proposed solar farm filed a petition for judicial review, seeking reversal of the BZA’s decision.

The Pulaski Superior Court vacated the BZA’s order, finding Mammoth Solar’s application did not comply with the local Unified Development Ordinance, so the BZA should not have considered or acted on the application. The matter was remanded back to the BZA, and Mammoth Solar appealed.

Oral arguments in Mammoth Solar, 21A-PL-2060, will be heard at 10 a.m. Tuesday via Zoom. Panel members include Judges Melissa May, Elaine Brown and Rudy Pyle.

Also on Tuesday, a panel including Judges Margret Robb, Robert Altice and Derek Molter will hear the 701 Niles case, 21A-PL-2123.

That case involves an eminent domain action that AEP Indiana Michigan Transmission Company filed against 701 Niles LLC to obtain an easement for an underground electric transmission line. The parties could not agree on compensation for the easement, so an appraisal began.

But when 701 Niles learned that AEP had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the University of Notre Dame to allow the school to concurrently occupy the easement with the placement of a private line, 701 Niles moved for an injunction. It argued that the placement of Notre Dame’s line would be a separate and distinct use of the property, and that the constitution prohibited the private easement for the school being taken via eminent domain.

The St. Joseph Circuit Court denied the injunction. 701 Niles now appeals.

That case will be argued at 11 a.m. Eastern Time at the JCC Indianapolis Laikin Auditorium, 6701 Hoover Road, Indianapolis.

Finally, Judges May, Brown and Pyle will reconvene at 1 p.m. Tuesday to hear the Kearschner case, 21A-CT-1888.

In Kearschner, Donald Kearschner was involved in an auto accident while at work, filed a worker’s compensation claim and sued the tortfeasor. He named his insurer, American Family Insurance, as a defendant and sought to recover underinsured motorist benefits.

Kearschner’s company paid him roughly $62,000 on his worker’s comp claim while the tortfeasor’s insurer paid out the $50,000 policy limit. But American Family moved for summary judgment on the grounds that it had no duty to provide underinsured motorist coverage when Kearschner had already received payment from his company and the tortfeasor.

The Owen Circuit Court agreed, and Kearschner now appeals. The case will be argued via Zoom.

The Mammoth Solar and Kearschner cases will also be livestreamed, but 701 Niles will not.

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