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Guzzo v. Town of St. John

Supreme Court of Indiana

September 13, 2019

David Guzzo, et al., Appellants,
v.
Town of St. John, Lake County, Indiana, Appellee.

          Trial Court Case No. 45D11-1403-PL-00037

          PUBLISHED ORDER

          LORETTA H. RUSH, CHIEF JUSTICE

         On July 31, 2019, Appellants, the Guzzos, filed a "Notice of Change in Law and Verified Motion for Remand." The motion argues that recent amendments to Indiana Code chapter 32-24-4.5 governing the procedures for transferring ownership of real property condemned through eminent domain from one private person to another should be applied retroactively to this case. We agree with the Guzzos and find the General Assembly intended the amended statute to apply retroactively. We remand to the trial court to proceed under the amended statute and to entertain any constitutional arguments why the facially retroactive statute ought not to apply here.

         Generally, a statute applies prospectively unless it expressly states otherwise. O'Laughlin v. Barton, 582 N.E.2d 817, 820 (Ind. 1991). By its plain terms, the amended statute applies retroactively to this case. Effective July 1, 2019, the General Assembly amended Indiana Code chapter 32-24-4.5 to define "residential property" as "real property that consists of: (1) a single family dwelling that is not owned for the purpose of resale, rental, or leasing in the ordinary course of the owner's business; and (2) the land on which the dwelling is located," Ind. Code § 32-24-4.5-6, and to clarify that owners of residential property condemned through eminent domain are entitled to 150% of the "fair market value of the parcel as determined under IC 32-24-1." Pub. L. No. 88-2019, 2019 Ind. Acts 1411 (adding I.C. § 32-24-4.5-6.2 and amending I.C. § 32-24-4.5-8). Subsection 8(b) applies amended subsection 8(a)(2) retroactively to a defined category of pending cases:

         (b) Subsection (a)(2) applies:

(1) only to residential property occupied by the owner as a residence, in the case of an eminent domain proceeding:
(A) initiated before July 1, 2019; and
(B) with respect to which the fair market value of the parcel has been determined under IC 32-24-1 before July 1, 2019; and
(2) to all residential property, regardless of whether the property is occupied by the owner as a residence, in the case of an eminent domain proceeding initiated:
(A)after June 30, 2019; or
(B)before July 1, 2019, and with respect to which the fair market value of the parcel has not been determined under IC 32-24-1 before July 1, 2019.

I.C. § 32-24-4.5-8(b).

         The Guzzos and the Town of St. John disagree about whether the present case fits under subsection 8(b)(1) or 8(b)(2) of the retroactive statute. Both parties agree that the eminent domain proceeding was initiated before July 1, 2019. But they disagree whether the fair market value was determined according to the eminent domain procedures before July 1, 2019. I.C. ch. 32-24-1.

         Indiana Code chapter 32-24-1 provides that after the filing of a complaint to determine damages under the eminent domain statute, the trial court appoints three residents of Indiana "to assess damages . . . that the owner or owners severally may sustain, or be entitled to, by reason of the ...


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