from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Timothy W.
Oakes, Judge The Honorable Therese Hannah, Commissioner Trial
Court Cause No. 49D02-1306-MI-16812
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Laura M. Nirenberg E. Anne Benaroya
Trevor DeSane Center for Wildlife Ethics LaPorte, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Andrea E. Rahman Deputy Attorney General
SHEPARD, SENIOR JUDGE.
Melodie Liddle's dog, Copper, died in a concealed animal
trap in Versailles State Park. Liddle sued several state
officials seeking damages. She also asked the trial court to
declare invalid state-issued emergency rules governing
trapping in state parks.
The court awarded damages to Liddle for the loss of Copper,
but she appeals the court's rulings on summary judgment
limiting the calculation of damages and denying her request
for declaratory judgment.
and Procedural History
Versailles State Park (VSP) sits on 5, 988 acres in
southeastern Indiana next to the city of Versailles. In the
mid-2000s, the park received complaints from visitors about
raccoons. Raccoon overpopulation may have been an issue
throughout Indiana's state park system, as the Indiana
Department of Natural Resources decided to facilitate
trapping in its parks statewide. In November 2005, DNR issued
an emergency rule that authorized park managers to permit
individuals to trap raccoons during Indiana's official
DNR reissued the emergency rule on an annual basis from 2007
through 2013, reauthorizing park managers to permit raccoon
and other animal trapping. Prior to 2012, the rule did not
include any guidance on how traps should be placed or whether
notice should be given to park visitors.
Harry Bloom was a security officer at VSP and had extensive
experience in trapping animals. Beginning in 2007, the
park's manager authorized him to trap raccoons. Bloom
installed his own traps during the December trapping season.
He used lethal "bodygrip" style traps.
Appellant's App. Vol. 2, p. 91.
Bloom decided where to place the traps, concealing some of
them in open-ended wooden boxes he had built. The park
manager did not keep track of where Bloom put the traps.
Bloom did not post signs to warn parkgoers because he was
concerned about theft, having had seven traps stolen in VSP
over the years. Between 2007 and 2013 he trapped 35 to 50
raccoons during trapping season. Bloom harvested the pelts
from the raccoons and apparently sold them. See id.
at 92 ("I processed the hides (furs) from these animals
to partially compensate my time, equipment, and expenses
December 16, 2011, was an unseasonably warm day. Melodie
Liddle drove to VSP with her two dogs to take a walk. One of
the dogs, Copper, was a ten-year-old beagle mix. Liddle kept
the dogs on leashes, and she walked on a paved road in the
park. The dogs led Liddle off the road and down an embankment
to a stream. At that point, Copper stuck her head in an
open-ended wooden box and became caught in one of Bloom's
traps. She cried out as the trap closed around her, drawing
Liddle's attention. Liddle struggled for several minutes
to free Copper while calling for help, but no one heard her.
She could not pry open the trap, which had clamped down on
Copper's neck. Copper died from suffocation.
Liddle called a friend, Gene Beach, who arrived at the scene
and removed Copper's body from the trap. Liddle went to
the park office and found park manager Paul Sipples, who
returned to the trap site with her and picked up the trap.
When Liddle complained about the unmarked trap, Sipples
stated that if they had put out warning signs, someone would
have stolen the traps.
Bloom removed the rest of the traps from the park that
evening, and he has not used lethal traps at VSP since the
incident. The versions of the emergency trapping rule that
were issued in 2012 and 2013 banned the use of lethal
body-gripping traps on dry land and required park staff to
post notices warning visitors about trapping. Id. at
Liddle filed suit in June 2013, naming DNR Commissioner
Cameron Clark, park manager Paul Sipples, and Harry Bloom as
defendants. We refer to the defendants collectively as DNR.
Liddle alleged DNR was negligent. She further requested
declaratory judgment, specifically asking the court to
declare the emergency rules void as unauthorized by DNR's
statutory authority. DNR moved to dismiss Liddle's claim
for declaratory judgment. In a February 12, 2014 order, the
court granted DNR's motion in part, concluding