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State ex rel. Indiana Department of Transportation v. Dehaven

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 18, 2016

State of Indiana ex rel. Indiana Department of Transportation, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Joshua Dehaven and FBi Buildings, Inc., Appellees-Defendants.

         Appeal from the Jasper Circuit Court Trial Court Cause No. 37C01-1311-CC-863 The Honorable John D. Potter, Judge

          Attorneys for Appellant Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Aaron T. Craft Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellees Andrew B. Miller Jacob M. O'Brien Starr Austen & Miller, LLP Logansport, Indiana

          Riley, Judge.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         [¶1] Appellant-Plaintiff, State of Indiana, ex rel. Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), appeals the trial court's denial of its motion for summary judgment in favor of Appellees-Defendants, Joshua DeHaven (DeHaven) and FBi Buildings, Inc. (FBi Buildings) (collectively, Appellees).

         [¶2] We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶3] INDOT raises two issues on appeal, one of which we find dispositive and which we restate as: Whether INDOT is entitled to recover, as a matter of law, the actual cost incurred to repair the bridge after DeHaven struck it with his trailer.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶4] On the afternoon of August 25, 2011, DeHaven, an employee of FBi Buildings, was driving southbound on I-65 in a 1999 Freightliner. He had just delivered some cargo in Remington, Indiana, which had required him to put the crane on the back of the Freightliner in the upright position. After the cargo was unloaded, DeHaven forgot to lower the crane to its original, resting position. He did not realize his mistake until the upright crane collided into the 1800 South overpass bridge in Jasper County, around mile marker 200, as he was driving down the interstate. The collision damaged the bridge and broke the crane into two pieces. The impact left black marks on the bridge and bent some support barriers. An INDOT inspector was on the scene almost immediately to secure the continued stability and safety of the bridge. Within twenty-four hours of the accident, INDOT's bridge rehabilitation officer, George Snyder (Snyder), inspected and evaluated the damage to the bridge. Snyder concluded that the bridge had sustained "typical" damage, which did not require it to be closed and did not compromise its structural integrity. (Appellant's App. p. 119). He estimated a reasonable cost to repair the bridge.

         [¶5] On November 4, 2011, INDOT sent DeHaven an invoice for $75, 198.82, which incorporated Snyder's opinions and constituted a preliminary estimate of the amount INDOT would incur to repair the damage to the bridge. Payment of the invoice was "due immediately upon receipt." (Appellant's App. p. 97). INDOT concedes that if the invoice had been paid, DeHaven would not have incurred any further liability even if the actual repair cost would have exceeded the invoiced amount.

         [¶6] Appellees hired Elite Consulting Services, Inc. (Elite) to inspect the damage to the bridge and to estimate the cost of repairs. Elite communicated to INDOT its concern that the invoice was excessive. After conducting its own assessment of the damages, Elite opined that the actual cost should be between $15, 000 and $20, 000. Taking into account Elite's concerns, INDOT sent Appellees a second, adjusted invoice in the amount $58, 712.38 on June 4, 2012. Still finding the amount of repairs excessive, Appellees and Elite decided "to wait until the repair project went to bid in hopes that this would produce an amount more reasonably reflective of the value of the necessary costs of repair." (Appellant's App. p. 153).

         [¶7] In early 2013, the project proceeded through the statutory bidding process in accordance with Ind. Code § 8-23-9-1 et seq. Prior to bidding, INDOT's engineers had estimated the repair cost for the project to be around $64, 000. On February 6, 2013, at the conclusion of the bidding term, INDOT received two bids from independent third-party contractors. Civil Construction, Inc., bid $77, 307.61 but was disqualified because it had failed to include a performance bond and power-of-attorney letter as required by law. See I.C. ยง 8-23-9-8. The only qualified bid ...


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