City of Vincennes v. Reuhl

Citation672 N.E.2d 495
Decision Date20 November 1996
Docket NumberNo. 42A01-9607-CV-216,42A01-9607-CV-216
PartiesCITY OF VINCENNES, Indiana, Appellant-Defendant, v. Virginia REUHL, Appellees-Plaintiffs, and Paric Corporation, Environmental Management Corporation, and Rogers Group, Inc., Appellees-Defendants.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana
OPINION

BAKER, Judge.

In this interlocutory appeal, appellant-defendant the City of Vincennes appeals the trial court's denial of its motion for summary judgment on both the complaint of appellee-plaintiff Virginia Reuhl and the cross-claim of appellee-defendant Environmental Management Corporation (EMC). Specifically, Vincennes claims the trial court made the following errors: 1) failing to find that Vincennes was immune from liability and 2) failing to find that Vincennes was entitled to summary judgment on EMC's cross-claim for indemnity.

FACTS

The facts relevant to this interlocutory appeal are not in dispute. On December 22, 1993, Vincennes entered into an agreement with EMC which provided that EMC would operate and maintain Vincennes' wastewater treatment facility. As part of the agreement, EMC was responsible for all of Vincennes' sewer collection lines and the related collection system. The agreement between Vincennes and EMC also provided that each entity would hold the other harmless from any liability caused by the negligence of the other.

Similarly, Vincennes contracted with Rogers Construction Group, Inc., to resurface various streets within the city. When Rogers resurfaced a street near a storm sewer, it left space around the sewer so EMC could cement around its sewer grate.

Thereafter, on October 6, 1994, Virginia Reuhl suffered injuries when she stepped into a hole next to a sewer grate on Fourth Street in Vincennes, Indiana. As a result, Reuhl filed a complaint against Vincennes, EMC and Rogers, claiming that the defendants negligently created the hole, failed to repair the hole and failed to warn her of the hole. EMC filed a cross-claim against Vincennes alleging that EMC was entitled to indemnity, pursuant to their agreement, for damages resulting from Vincennes' negligence.

On October 2, 1995, Vincennes filed a motion for summary judgment on both Reuhl's complaint and EMC's cross-claim. Following a hearing on April 25, 1996, the trial court denied Vincennes' motion. Thereafter, Vincennes petitioned the trial court, pursuant to Ind.Appellate Rule 4(B)(6), to certify its denial of the motion for summary judgment for interlocutory appeal. On June 24, 1996, the trial court granted the petition. This appeal ensued.

DISCUSSION AND DECISION
I. Standard of Review

We apply the same standard of review as the trial court when reviewing its ruling on a motion for summary judgment. O'Neal v. Throop, 596 N.E.2d 984, 986 (Ind.Ct.App.1992), trans. denied. Summary judgment is proper when the designated pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits show there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Whiteco Industries, Inc. v. Nickolick, 571 N.E.2d 1337, 1339 (Ind.Ct.App.1991), trans. denied; Ind.Trial Rule 56(C). When, as here, the parties do not dispute the facts material to the claim, our task is to determine whether the court correctly applied the law to the undisputed facts. State ex rel. Indiana State Bd. of Dental Examiners v. Judd, 554 N.E.2d 829, 830 (Ind.Ct.App.1990).

II. Immunity

First, Vincennes contends the trial court erred in denying its motion for summary judgment on Reuhl's claim. Specifically, Vincennes argues that because it contracted with EMC and Rogers to maintain the sewer system and the streets, any damage to Reuhl was caused by the acts or omissions of others. As a result, Vincennes claims it was entitled to governmental immunity.

IND. CODE § 34-4-16.5-3(9) provides that a governmental entity is immune from liability for damages which result from the acts or omissions of anyone other than the governmental entity. We recently addressed whether a governmental entity who contracts with another to perform a traditional government function could avoid liability under this statute for damage based on the contract. In Shand Mining, Inc. v. Clay County Bd. of Commissioners, 671 N.E.2d 477, 481 (1996), we held that while a governmental entity could delegate its responsibility for maintaining streets to a private party, it could not avoid liability for negligent maintenance of the streets on the basis of its delegation. This holding was based on the well-settled law in Indiana that a principal cannot avoid liability for the negligence of its agent if the principal is by law or contract charged with performing the specific duty. Bagley v. Insight Communications Co., L.P., 658 N.E.2d 584, 586 (Ind.1995). In Indiana, governmental entities are charged with specific obligations with respect to public travel. See City of Indianapolis v. Cauley, 164 Ind. 304, 309-10, 73 N.E. 691, 693, 694 (1905); IND. CODE § 8-17-3-2 (county supervisor has responsibility for supervision of maintenance and repair of all highways within county). Thus, we held that the governmental entity was not immune from liability.

In the instant case, the same analysis applies. Vincennes properly exercised its discretion to delegate its duty to maintain its sewer system and streets to EMC and Rogers. Nevertheless, Vincennes is not...

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8 cases
  • Schon v. Frantz
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • 18 Septiembre 2020
    ...negligence, that is, if a loss results from an act for which it ‘can be held directly liable.’ ") (quoting City of Vincennes v. Reuhl , 672 N.E.2d 495, 498 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996), trans. denied (1997)). Therefore, they continue, the Coliseum is still subject to liability on their claim for ne......
  • Bartholomew Cnty. v. SJohnson
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • 17 Septiembre 2013
    ...Mining, Inc. v. Clay County Board of Commissioners, 671 N.E.2d 477 (Ind.Ct.App.1996), trans. denied (1997), and City of Vincennes v. Reuhl, 672 N.E.2d 495 (Ind.Ct.App.1996), trans. denied (1997), neither of which mentions Hinshaw. The bridge designer filed a summary judgment motion assertin......
  • Rush v. Elkhart County Plan Com'n
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • 11 Agosto 1998
    ...court's task is to determine whether the trial court correctly applied the law to the undisputed facts. City of Vincennes v. Reuhl, 672 N.E.2d 495, 497 (Ind.Ct.App.1996), trans. denied (1997). The appellant has the burden of persuading this court that the trial court's grant of summary judg......
  • Indiana Dept. of Transp. v. Howard
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • 28 Enero 2008
    ...duty exception applies only if the principal is negligent in supervising the agent and cites Shand Mining and City of Vincennes v. Ruehl, 672 N.E.2d 495 (Ind.Ct.App. 1996), trans. denied, in support of its position. In Shand Mining, the plaintiffs were involved in an automobile accident and......
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