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 Appeals Court Overturns Court’s Ruling on Spiceland Building Issue

October 10, 2007 - The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court ruling that awarded owners of a Spiceland flower shop $90,000 in damages from a neighboring property owner last fall.

A unanimous three-judge panel ruled last week that the Henry Superior Court erred when it ordered Tracy Denny to pay $90,000 in damages to Donald and Barbara Meade in November 2006. The Meades had sued Denny after an adjacent building owned by Denny collapsed in late March 2006, falling onto the Meade's real estate and flower shop.

According to the Court of Appeals, the trial court judge, Special Judge Barbara Harcourt from Rush County, incorrectly concluded the Meades had suffered permanent damages to their property. Senior Justice Betty Barteau, who authored the five-page Court of Appeals opinion, said the injury suffered by the Meades was "ongoing and repairable … (and) ends with the collapse, repair, or razing of Denny's building."

"The Meades' recognition of the lack of permanency is illustrated by their offer to deed the property to Denny so that she can 'salvage' it," Barteau continued, noting Harcourt had ordered the Meades to deed their property to Denny upon payment of the damages. "If the property is permanently worthless, there is no 'salvage' value. Accordingly, we must conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in characterizing the injury as permanent and in crafting a damage award that, in essence, forces Denny to buy the Meades' property."

The case will now go back to the Henry Superior Court for a new hearing on damages. The Court of Appeals ruling said the parties will be allowed to "present evidence of loss of use, restoration, and any other damages occasioned by the continuing nature of Denny's nuisance."

Despite the reversal of the $90,000 damage award, the Meades' attorney told The Banner that a new hearing could result in an even higher award for his clients.

"The damages, I think, will be even more this time because it hasn't been corrected since we tried the case," Rushville attorney Jack Clarkson told The Banner. "As far as I know, it's an even bigger mess than it was."

Denny's attorney, Mary Schmid of Indianapolis, did not return a message The Banner left for her prior to the news deadline for this week's issue.


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