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Court of Appeals sides with plaintiffs in building lawsuit

By David Denson

The Indiana Court of Appeals last month (April 23, 2020) handed down a ruling in favor of the 487 Company LLC in a lawsuit against Calumet Township Trustee Kimberly K. Robinson and building manager Carol Ann Seaton.

The lawsuit alleges that the 487 Company purchased the building located at 487 Broadway from the Township.

Also, according to the lawsuit, the Township removed the lighted signs from the exterior of the building. It also alleges that the Township removed pictures and artifacts that had been secured to the interior walls.

The complaint also alleges that the new owners of the building complained to the Township about changes in the condition of the property. On December 10, 2018, a complaint was filed in which they [487] alleged that the Township had “caused property damage” to the exterior of the building by tearing down and removing large, electrically lighted signs, which caused the building “to look blighted, vandalized, and vacated” and interfered with the ability to “immediately rent or attract renters” to the building. They further claimed that the pictures affixed to the interior of the building were of historical significance.

A motion to dismiss the complaint was filed by the Township on February 14, 2019. In the complaint the Township asserted that at the time of closing on the property the new owners were aware of the signs and accepted the property in its present condition and waived any issues concerning the signs.

They [the Township] stated that only the inserts of the signs had been removed and that it did not cause any damage. The Township also denied allegations it had been negligent when it removed the pictures and artifacts from inside the building and that those items were the personal property of the Township and they had the right to remove them.

On March 22, 2019, the court issued an order stating that it would consider the Township’s motion to dismiss as a summary judgment motion, and it gave 487 Broadway 20 days to file a reply. 487 filed a motion on April 12 to stay the motion to dismiss and stated that they needed additional time to conduct discovery and facts in opposition to the Township’s motion.

On April 16, 2019, the court granted the Township’s motion for summary judgment without a hearing.

A motion was later filed on behalf of 487 Broadway saying that the court had erred in granting the summary judgment and argued that the court erred in giving the Plaintiffs 20 days to respond to the summary judgment, instead of the 30 days required.

In reversing the original ruling, the Appellate Court, voting 3-0, stated that the Trial Court misapplied the law when it gave 487 Broadway only 20 days to respond to the Township’s motion for summary judgment, instead of the 30 days required.

It also stated that the Township did not designate any evidence in support of the motion for summary judgment that would be admissible at trial.

The matter has been sent back to the Trial Court, with instructions for the court to vacate all orders relevant to the Township’s motion to dismiss.

The Township can submit another motion for summary judgment, if it complies with Trial Court rules, and 487 Broadway will be given 30 days to respond. The complaint demanded $250,000 in damages.

The 487 LLC was represented by Atty. MacArthur Drake, of Gary, IN. Kimberly Robinson, Calumet Township, et al., were represented by Atty. Rinzer Williams of Merriville, IN.

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