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Riley Williams & Piatt Wins Important Appellate Victory Preserving Property Owners’ Rights

On September 13, 2016, Riley Williams & Piatt, LLC, along with co-counsel Clendening Johnson Bohrer, P.C., won an important appellate victory for its client in a case of first impression in the Indiana courts concerning property owners’ rights to bring suit for the taking of land without just compensation by utility company Duke Energy.

Riley Williams & Piatt represented a proposed class of Indiana property owners who alleged that Duke Energy had taken their property for a public purpose without proceeding with a condemnation action or providing just compensation. Duke Energy filed a motion to dismiss with the trial court, arguing that the action was barred by the statute of limitations, since it accrued upon the 2002 incorporation into the Indiana Administrative Code of a system of national utilities safety standards.

On appeal, Riley Williams & Piatt, on behalf of its client, Bellwether Properties, argued that the trial court should have applied the discovery rule. Riley Williams & Piatt observed that no Indiana court had actually determined whether the discovery rule applies to inverse condemnation actions, like the present action. Riley Williams & Piatt also argued that Bellwether’s claims did not accrue in 2002, as Duke said they did, because it did not know in 2002 that Duke’s voltage was high enough to require more clearance than what was set out in the original easement.

Finally, Riley Williams & Piatt argued that in order to learn about Duke’s clearance requirements and how they affected Bellwether’s property rights, Bellwether would have had to travel to Indianapolis to read the updated 2002 NESC standards. Even if the discovery rule did not apply to its suit, Riley Williams & Piatt argued, Bellwether should not be charged with knowledge of technical requirements for public utilities.

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the arguments made by Riley Williams & Piatt and reversed the trial court’s grant of Duke Energy’s motion to dismiss.

Riley Williams & Piatt principal managing member William Riley presented oral arguments before the Court of Appeals. The favorable result in this case is just one example of the strength of Riley Williams & Piatt’s litigation and appellate practices and the firm’s passion for fighting for the rights of individuals all over the state of Indiana.

View a video of the oral argument here