Indiana Water Utility Fight Continues

The issue of whether a party may demand a jury trial is established in almost every jurisdiction. However, a northern Indiana water authority has taken a position that the factual determination of value can be established only by a judge. The notion is that the just compensation appeal is simply from a Board of Public Works’ administrative decision.

Despite the Journal Gazette article claim that the decision is likely to be upheld by the Supreme Court, do not be surprised if the notion that juries should determine value in Indiana condemnation proceedings is confirmed by the Indiana Supreme Court.

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette 

Though the state’s highest court will hear legal arguments Sept. 27, the court still will not set the price. The issue now before the court is a Utility Center appeal of a judge’s ruling that the judge will determine the price after a hearing, and the issue will not go to a trial before a jury. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld that ruling, noting that the role of the lower court is to hear an appeal of the Board of Public Works’ administrative decision to set the price. The judge should examine how the board of works made its decision but not hear testimony and start from scratch in setting a price.

If the Indiana Supreme Court sides with the city, which seems likely, the case goes back to the county court. After that decision is inevitably appealed, the case could well go to the Supreme Court a third time.