Martin v. Amoco Oil Co., No. 56A03-9409-CV-333

Docket NºNo. 56A03-9409-CV-333
Citation679 N.E.2d 139
Case DateApril 03, 1997
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Page 139

679 N.E.2d 139
James MARTIN, Mary Roman, Henry Cornelius, and Robert
O'Drobinak, Individually and on behalf of all
others similarly situated, Appellants-Plaintiffs,
v.
AMOCO OIL COMPANY, Appellee/Cross-Appellant Defendant.
Joseph and Dorthea ZRNCHIK, et. al, Appellants/Intervenors,
v.
AMOCO OIL COMPANY, Appellee/Defendant.
No. 56A03-9409-CV-333.
Court of Appeals of Indiana.
April 3, 1997.
Rehearing Denied July 10, 1997.

Page 141

Saul I. Ruman, David W. Holub, David M. Hamacher, Ruman, Clements, Tobin & Holub, P.C., Hammond, John W. Barce, Barce & Ryan, Kentland, Richard P. Komyatte, Komyatte & Freeland, Highland, Larry G. Evans, William F. Satterlee, III, F. Joseph Jaskowiak, Jack A. Kramer, Hoeppner, Wagner & Evans, Valparaiso, Patrick J. McManama, Patrick J. McManama, P.C., Crown Point, for Appellants.

Thomas F. Ryan, Timothy E. Kapshandy, Brandon D. Lawniczak, Sidley & Austin, Chicago, IL, James J. Neath, Amoco Oil Company, Chicago, IL, Fred R. Biesecker, Ice Miller Donadio & Ryan, Indianapolis, for Appellee.

GARRARD, Judge.

James Martin, et. al. (collectively "Class Plaintiffs"), Amoco Oil Company ("Amoco"), and Joseph and Dorthea Zrnchik, et. al. (collectively "Intervenors") 1 appeal various facets of a class action involving the alleged underground migration of oil from Amoco's Whiting, Indiana refinery to Class Plaintiffs' and Intervenors' property.

Reversed and remanded in part, and affirmed in part.

FACTS

This bitterly contested and often vexatious appeal began its journey to this court on February 1, 1991, when Robert O'Drobinak and Eugene Burkat 2 filed suit against Amoco in Hammond, Indiana on behalf of themselves and the 500 residents of Whiting,

Page 142

Indiana who had received notice from Amoco of the possible underground migration of oil onto their properties. The complaint, as finally amended, alleged negligence, negligence per se, nuisance, strict liability, negligent/intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intentional trespass on the part of Amoco.

On April 24, 1991, Amoco moved for an automatic change of venue from Hammond pursuant to then Ind.Trial Rule 76. After both parties struck a proffered county, the cause was venued to the Newton County Circuit Court. Shortly thereafter, on June 10, 1991, Judge Marvin McLaughlin was appointed special judge. Judge McLaughlin immediately assumed control of the case, but did not file an appearance and qualification as special judge.

The next significant event did not occur until January 23, 1992, when Class Plaintiffs and Amoco both filed motions to certify the class as a mandatory class under Ind.Trial Rule 23(B)(1). A telephone conference between Class Plaintiffs, Amoco, and Judge McLaughlin was held and the order certifying the class as a T.R. 23(B)(1) mandatory class was entered the same day the motions were made. It is worth note that, as was characteristic of the entire three year life of this suit, the interims between events of major importance were filled with multiple minor motions by the parties to which the trial court was forced to respond. 3

On January 31, 1992, eight days after the class certification order, attorney Richard Komyatte entered his appearance on behalf of a group of individuals (the Intervenors) who were then pursuing a separate suit against Amoco in federal court based on the same alleged oil migration. 4 On February 3, 1992, Intervenors filed a motion to vacate the class certification order and to revoke the appointment of Judge McLaughlin for failing to properly appear and qualify under Ind.Trial Rule 79. Judge McLaughlin subsequently denied both motions. The Intervenors repeatedly filed motions to vacate the certification order and revoke Judge McLaughlin's appointment. These motions were continuously denied until Judge McLaughlin ordered the Intervenors, on the motion of Amoco, to refrain from filing repetitive motions on the matter. On March 25, 1992, the Intervenors filed a praecipe, ostensibly to appeal the class certification order, but did not file the record with this court or pursue the appeal in any manner.

Between March and June of 1992, the parties, now including the Intervenors, continued disputing the limits and process of discovery, many of the disputes involving discovery of unnamed class members. Eventually Class Plaintiffs agreed, though reluctantly, to draft and send a questionnaire to the unnamed class members about their individual claims and damages. The questionnaire explicitly stated that failure to answer the questionnaire and return it to the class representatives would jeopardize the unnamed members' ability to participate in the suit and possibly preclude them from making any claims against Amoco. On June 24, 1992, the trial court, upon the motion of Amoco, issued an order setting a deadline for the return of the questionnaires and ordering that any unnamed member who did not respond before this deadline would be dismissed from the suit. The deadline was repeatedly extended by the trial court, but eventually approximately 301 of the 500 class members were dismissed from the suit.

After almost two years as special judge, Judge McLaughlin recused himself on April 26, 1993, and Judge Robert Smart was appointed as special judge. One day later, on April 27, 1993, Judge Smart filed his appearance and qualification as special judge. None of the parties challenged Judge Smart's appointment or appearance at that time, or now on appeal.

On June 2, 1993, Henry Cornelius, a former member of the Intervenors, was named a class representative. At this time, attorney Komyatte along with the Intervenors joined Class Plaintiffs in the prosecution of

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this suit. 5 The last challenged discovery order was filed on June 24, 1993. This order required independent medical examinations ("IMEs") for all class members who were to testify about physical discomfort and ailments allegedly caused by the underground oil. Most class members who were to testify eventually submitted to the IMEs, but it appears from the record that some witnesses were prevented from testifying about any physical discomfort because they had not submitted to the examinations.

Opening statements by Class Plaintiffs began on October 7, 1993. On October 8, 1993, the trial court granted Amoco's motion in limine excluding any reference to Class Plaintiffs' fear or anxiety caused by fires or explosions at the Whiting refinery. Class Plaintiffs objected to this order in a timely manner, thus preserving the issue for appeal. The trial continued for the next seven weeks until the jury began deliberating on November 22, 1993. On that day, while the jury was still deliberating, Class Plaintiffs renewed their motion to vacate the class certification order and revoke the appointment of Judge McLaughlin. The next day Judge Smart denied both the motion to vacate the class certification order and the motion to revoke the appointment of Judge McLaughlin. On November 29, 1993, the jury returned a verdict of not liable on all counts. Judge Smart entered final judgment on this verdict on December 14, 1993.

On December 30, 1993, the Intervenors, no longer acting as part of the class, filed a motion to intervene for the purpose of filing a motion to correct error. Judge Smart granted this motion to intervene on January 13, 1994. Both the Intervenors and the Class Plaintiffs then filed their individual motions to correct error on January 13, 1994. Over the next eight months, the trial court heard arguments by the parties and responded to a series of accusations and motions filed by and against all three parties. On August 1, 1994, Judge Smart entered his order on the various motions to correct error. This order granted judgment on the evidence on the intentional trespass claim against Amoco. Judge Smart then proceeded to hold that the class representatives had failed to prove any compensatory damages and awarded each of the named class representatives nominal damages in the amount of one dollar. In all other respects, Judge Smart affirmed the verdict of the jury.

All three parties appeal this decision. Further facts will be provided where necessary.

ISSUES

Class Plaintiffs, Intervenors, and Amoco present several issues for review which we consolidate and restate as follows.

Intervenors present four issues on appeal which we restate and consolidate as:

1. Whether the trial court erred by certifying the class as a mandatory class under T.R. 23(B)(1).

2. Whether Judge McLaughlin's appointment as special judge was revoked for failure to comply with T.R. 79.

3. Whether the automatic change of venue from Lake County to Newton county served as a wholesale peremptory challenge of any African-American juror, thus violating the Equal Protection Clause.

Amoco presents one issue on appeal.

1. Whether the trial court erred by holding Amoco liable for intentional trespass despite the jury's verdict.

Class Plaintiffs present six issues on appeal which we consolidate and restate as:

1. Whether the trial court erred by failing to find Amoco liable on the nuisance claim.

2. Whether the trial court erred by dismissing 301 unnamed class members for failing to respond to a discovery questionnaire.

3. Whether the trial court erred by excluding evidence of the class members'

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fear and anxiety, and evidence of fires and explosions at the Amoco refinery.

4. Whether the trial court erred by ordering independent medical examinations of unnamed class members and by precluding the testimony of those who did not submit to these examinations.

DISCUSSION

I. INTERVENORS' CLAIMS

A. CHALLENGES TO THE CLASS CERTIFICATION

Intervenors first claim that the trial court erred when it certified the class as a mandatory class action under T.R. 23(B)(1) for two reasons. First, they argue that the court erred because the class action did not meet the requirements of T.R. 23(B)(1) and, secondly, the court violated Intervenors' due...

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10 practice notes
  • Dinkins v. Grimes, 2829
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 30, 2011
    ...which involves procedures for changing venue ...”) with State v. House, 127 N.M. 151, 978 P.2d 967, 993 (1999); Martin v. Amoco Oil Co., 679 N.E.2d 139, 146 (Ind.App.1997); and Osmulski v. Becze, 638 N.E.2d 828, 833–35 (Ind.App.1994). But see, James v. State, 613 N.E.2d 15, 29 (Ind.1993) (I......
  • In re Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether ("Mtbe"), 1:00-1898.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • November 9, 2005
    ...313 (Ind.App.2004). 75. Id. at 314 (quoting Hawke v. Maus, 141 Ind.App. 126, 226 N.E.2d 713, 715-16 (1967)). Cf. Marlin v. Amoco Oil Co., 679 N.E.2d 139, 147 (Ind.App.1997), aff'd, 696 N.E.2d 383, 386 (Ind.1998) (holding that plaintiffs must prove that defendant knew that the consequences c......
  • Alvarez v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 2:17-CV.414-JVB-JPK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • July 26, 2021
    ...716). U.S. Smelter argues that knowledge of the certain or substantially certain migration is necessary, citing Martin v. Amoco Oil Co., 679 N.E.2d 139, 147 (Ind.Ct.App. 1997).[3] In Martin, the trial court had held that intent to refine oil was sufficient to support a claim of intentional ......
  • Connerwood Healthcare, Inc. v. Estate of Herron, 82A01-9701-CV-34
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • July 31, 1997
    ...as here, we treat the class certification order as a final, appealable order. See discussion of this issue in Martin v. Amoco Oil Co., 679 N.E.2d 139, 144 (Ind.Ct.App.1997) (issue uncertain after supreme court's decision in Berry v. Huffman, 643 N.E.2d 327 (Ind.1994)), petition to transfer ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Dinkins v. Grimes, 2829
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 30, 2011
    ...which involves procedures for changing venue ...”) with State v. House, 127 N.M. 151, 978 P.2d 967, 993 (1999); Martin v. Amoco Oil Co., 679 N.E.2d 139, 146 (Ind.App.1997); and Osmulski v. Becze, 638 N.E.2d 828, 833–35 (Ind.App.1994). But see, James v. State, 613 N.E.2d 15, 29 (Ind.1993) (I......
  • In re Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether ("Mtbe"), 1:00-1898.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • November 9, 2005
    ...313 (Ind.App.2004). 75. Id. at 314 (quoting Hawke v. Maus, 141 Ind.App. 126, 226 N.E.2d 713, 715-16 (1967)). Cf. Marlin v. Amoco Oil Co., 679 N.E.2d 139, 147 (Ind.App.1997), aff'd, 696 N.E.2d 383, 386 (Ind.1998) (holding that plaintiffs must prove that defendant knew that the consequences c......
  • Alvarez v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 2:17-CV.414-JVB-JPK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • July 26, 2021
    ...716). U.S. Smelter argues that knowledge of the certain or substantially certain migration is necessary, citing Martin v. Amoco Oil Co., 679 N.E.2d 139, 147 (Ind.Ct.App. 1997).[3] In Martin, the trial court had held that intent to refine oil was sufficient to support a claim of intentional ......
  • Connerwood Healthcare, Inc. v. Estate of Herron, 82A01-9701-CV-34
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • July 31, 1997
    ...as here, we treat the class certification order as a final, appealable order. See discussion of this issue in Martin v. Amoco Oil Co., 679 N.E.2d 139, 144 (Ind.Ct.App.1997) (issue uncertain after supreme court's decision in Berry v. Huffman, 643 N.E.2d 327 (Ind.1994)), petition to transfer ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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