Courthouse fire liability arguments presented
Friday, November 22, 2013 10:00 AM
Attorneys presented their arguments before the Indiana Court of Appeals on Thursday to determine who should be liable for damages that resulted from the 2009 Jefferson County Courthouse fire.
The suit filed by the Jefferson County Commissioners sought a judgment against contractors for the damages.
The contractors include Teton Corp., Innovative Roofing Solution Inc., Gutapfel Roofing Inc. and Daniel Gutapfel, who were claimed to be working on the Courthouse.
A Scott County judge ruled in favor of the defendants in November 2012, ruling that the Commissioners did not obtain a separate insurance plan for the remodeling project, meaning only the county's general insurance plan covered the building.
But the appeal was filed to determine whether or not the county was protected against damages that were not a direct result of the construction being done. This damage would include the contents of the Courthouse, such as desks or files.
The Commissioners contend that they can file claims for damages caused by gross negligence that caused the destruction of the "non-work property."
Richard Mullineaux, who argued on behalf of all the defendants in the case, said there is a distinct difference between when contractors would be liable for damages.
The fire caused damage to a piece of property the county owns, which Mullineaux said means the county is responsible for damages.
"The owner has a responsibility of providing proper insurance ... for the amount of the work. They didn't do that in this case and relied on the plan they had," Mullineaux said.
Maggie Smith, the attorney for the Commissioners, said a waiver applies specifically to work being performed.
"You only waive damage to work property, not non-work property," Smith said.
The arguments were presented to Judges Elaine Brown, Paul Mathias and Edward Najam Jr. There is no timetable for when a written opinion will be issued in the case.