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Indy looking for a few (really) good nuisance lawsuit targets



Indianapolis, Indiana – In order to utilize lawsuits to redefine “nuisance” in the eyes of state law, the city of Indianapolis is searching for a few solid test cases to take to court.

A nuisance, according to Indiana law, is anything that is “injurious to health,” “indecent,” “offensive,” or interferes with property or people’s lives.

That broad term might apply to a wide range of items, and frequently communities utilize costs incurred in dealing with a property as evidence that it was a nuisance. In order to address issues at a location, city services like EMT runs and police responses may be necessary.

However, a Court of Appeals decision effectively eliminated the use of cost as evidence of a nuisance, making it much more difficult for local governments to use the legal system to force a problematic property to abide by local rules.

In order to find prospective targets for nuisance lawsuits, the city’s Problem Properties Task Force is now reviewing data on crimes, fires, and health department cases against properties.

“We’re already looking at potentials. We just want to make sure our choice is informed by the data criteria,” explained Aryn Schounce, director of Government Affairs & Strategic Initiatives for Indianapolis.

It is anticipated that a list of problematic properties will be created after data analysis by the City Prosecutor’s Office, IMPD, the Marion County Public Health Department, and the Alcohol Compliance Task Force. According to Schounce, the process will probably be finished by the end of the summer.

Shortly after, test nuisance lawsuits can be submitted.

“There’s going to be one than one lawsuit. The first one, we’re looking for one that’s kind of open and shut on the facts,” said Matt Giffin with the City Corporation Counsel.

The goal of the city’s legal strategy, according to Giffin, is not just to prevail in the nuisance lawsuit but, if necessary, to persuade the Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court to redefine what constitutes a nuisance and to offer local governments more powerful legal options for dealing with problematic properties.

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