Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Brown County Water Utility, Inc. v. Town of Nashville

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 7, 2019

BROWN COUNTY WATER UTILITY, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF NASHVILLE, INDIANA, NANCY CROCKER, JANE GORE, ALISHA GREDY, ANNA HOFSTETTER, and DAVE RUDD, Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTIONS IN LIMINE

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Motions in Limine filed by Plaintiff Brown County Water Utility, Inc. (“Brown County Water”) (Filing No. 92) and Defendants Town of Nashville, Indiana (“Nashville”) and Jane Gore, Alisha Gredy, Nancy Crocker, Anna Hofstetter, and Dave Rudd, in their official capacities as Nashville Town Council Members (collectively, the “Defendants”) (Filing No. 89). Brown County Water initiated this litigation claiming federally-protected water service rights under 7 U.S.C. § 1926(b) and a related claim for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Defendants respond that Brown County Water is encroaching on their water service rights. Following cross-motions for summary judgment, this case is now set for a jury trial on Brown County Water's claims. For the following reasons, Brown County Water's Motion in Limine is granted in part and denied in part, and the Defendants' Motion in Limine also is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         “[J]udges have broad discretion in ruling on evidentiary questions during trial or before on motions in limine.” Jenkins v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 316 F.3d 663, 664 (7th Cir. 2002). The court excludes evidence on a motion in limine only if the evidence clearly is not admissible for any purpose. See Hawthorne Partners v. AT&T Technologies, Inc., 831 F.Supp. 1398, 1400 (N.D. Ill. 1993). Unless evidence meets this exacting standard, evidentiary rulings must be deferred until trial so questions of foundation, relevancy, and prejudice may be resolved in context . Id. at 1400- 01. Moreover, denial of a motion in limine does not necessarily mean that all evidence contemplated by the motion is admissible; rather, it only means that, at the pretrial stage, the court is unable to determine whether the evidence should be excluded. Id. at 1401.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Brown County Water and the Defendants each filed a Motion in Limine, asking the Court to make pretrial determinations regarding the admissibility of particular evidence or argument. The Court will address each Motion in turn.

         A. Brown County Water's Motion in Limine

         1. Brown County Water's capacity to provide fire suppression services

         Brown County Water seeks to exclude any evidence or argument concerning its capacity to provide fire suppression services to the Big Woods Property (“Big Woods”) or the costs thereof. Brown County Water anticipates the Defendants will attempt to introduce this evidence in support of its argument that Brown County Water did not make services available to Big Woods. Brown County Water argues such evidence is not relevant for any purpose in this lawsuit because 7 U.S.C. § 1926 does not require a water district to provide fire suppression services to be entitled to protection from municipal encroachment under § 1926(b).

         The claim to be presented at trial concerns whether Brown County Water has adequate “pipes in the ground” to serve Big Woods, and a water utility's capacity to provide fire suppression services has no bearing on whether it “has sufficient ‘pipes in the ground' to make service available.” Rural Water Dist. No. 4, Douglas Cty., Kan. v. City of Eudora, Kan., 659 F.3d 969, 982 (10th Cir. 2011). Brown County Water asserts that its ability to provide fire suppression services is simply “not a factor the court should analyze in determining whether [Brown County Water] has made service available, ” id., and thus, any evidence relating to fire suppression services is irrelevant and should be excluded.

         Furthermore, Brown County Water asserts that it does not provide fire suppression services to any of its customers, so fire suppression services and the costs thereof are irrelevant to whether water services have been made available. Thus, the cost of obtaining fire suppression services from a source other than Brown County Water is irrelevant to whether it made services available and is entitled to protection under § 1926(b). Additionally, fire suppression evidence could mislead or confuse the jury, leading the jury to mistakenly believe Big Woods would be left without fire suppression services entirely if it rules in favor of Brown County Water and leading the jury to decide the case on an improper basis, such as an emotional one.

         The Defendants respond that Brown County Water's expert witness opined that Brown County Water could provide water to customers for fire suppression needs up to 200 gpm, which would be available for Big Woods to incorporate into its overall fire suppression system. The Defendants' expert witness countered that Brown County Water's water system did not provide necessary water flow to support Big Woods' fire suppression system. The Defendants' expert opined that Big Woods would need to construct a new water line and alter its fire suppression system, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to connect to Brown County Water. The Defendants assert that Brown County Water's expert should not be permitted to testify that Brown County Water can make water available to support a fire suppression system and then not permit the Defendants' expert to challenge that testimony. The Defendants assert, the deadline to limit or exclude expert testimony has long since expired, and Brown County Water did not seek to limit or exclude this expert testimony before the deadline, so it should not be permitted to circumvent the deadline through its Motion in Limine.

         Finally, Defendants argue that fire suppression is relevant in this case because the regulations implementing § 1926 explain fire protection should be provided when practicable: “Fire protection. Water facilities should have sufficient capacity to provide reasonable fire protection to the extent practicable.” 7 C.F.R. § 1780.57(d). Thus, it is “practicable” for fire protection to be provided to Big Woods because Nashville actually provides it. The excessive cost for Big Woods to alter its fire suppression system to receive service from Brown County Water is relevant as a customer connection cost, see Rural Water Dist. No. 1 v. City of Wilson, Kan., 243 F.3d 1263, 1271 (10th Cir. 2001), especially because Big Woods already receives enough water from Nashville for fire protection. Because Brown County Water seeks an equitable permanent injunction, considerations of hardship and public interest are relevant, and fire suppression is in the public interest.

         At this stage, the Court is unable to the conclude that this evidence clearly is not admissible for any purpose. See Hawthorne, 831 F.Supp. at 1400. Brown County Water has not met the “exacting standard” to exclude this evidence in limine, so evidentiary rulings concerning the provision of fire suppression must be deferred until trial so questions of relevancy and prejudice may be resolved in context. Therefore, this request is denied.

         2. The definition of service area in 7 C.F.R. § 1780.3, including any reference to any variation of the phrase “area reasonably expected to be served”

         Brown County Water seeks to exclude any evidence or argument about the definition of “service area” found at 7 C.F.R. § 1780.3 for the argument that Big Woods is in Nashville's “service area.” Section 1780.3 defines “service area” as “the area reasonably expected to be served by the project.” 7 C.F.R. § 1780.3. Brown County Water argues that this definition is irrelevant to the issue of whether it is entitled to protection under 7 U.S.C. § 1926 because Section 1780.3's definition is part of the regulations that implement “the policies and procedures for making and processing direct loans and grants for water and waste projects.” 7 C.F.R. § 1780.1. The definition does not relate to establishing a rural water utility's rights under § 1926(b). See Green Valley Special Util. Dist. v. City of Cibolo, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95373, at *7 n.2 (W.D. Tex. July 20, 2016).

         Additionally, Brown County Water asserts that any reliance on the definition of “service area” in § 1780.3 to argue that Big Woods is within Nashville's service area is improper and irrelevant because Brown County Water's entitlement to protection from Nashville's encroachment under § 1926(b) depends on whether Brown County Water has made services available to the property. Whether Nashville also could provide services to Big Woods is irrelevant because the question is simply whether Brown County Water made services available to Big Woods.

         In response, the Defendants argue Section 1926(b) prohibits a municipality from “curtail[ing] or limit[ing]” “the area served” by a federally-indebted utility, and the Seventh Circuit concluded that § 1926(b) prohibits “municipal encroachment on a rural water association's service area.” Jennings Water, Inc. v. City of N. Vernon, Ind., 895 F.2d 311, 314 (7th Cir. 1989). The Defendants assert the regulation implementing § 1926(b) makes clear that it only protects a federally-indebted utility's “service area.” Brown County Water filed its Complaint to protect its “service area” and sought a preliminary injunction to protect its “service area.” The “service area” is relevant to this action. And the Defendants argue, the federal regulations define the term “service area” as “the area reasonably expected to be served by the project.” 7 C.F.R. § 1780.3. The Defendants assert that Big Woods is within the area reasonably expected to be served by Nashville, and “[m]otions in limine are not meant to exclude evidence merely because it is unfavorable to BCWU.” (Filing No. 101 at 11.)

         Concerning the definition's relationship to the regulation concerning “making and processing direct loans, ” the Defendants argue that in 1977, the federal government loaned money to Nashville to build the water main directly in front of what would become the Big Woods property. Brown County Water also was federally indebted in 1977, so to the extent there was any incursion into a service area, that would have occurred in 1977. And in June 2016, the federal government committed to lending money to Nashville for an additional project to service the area including the Big Woods property. Thus, the Defendants argue, the definition's application to the regulation concerning “making and processing direct loans” does not help Brown County Water's position. The Defendants assert that service area is critical in this case, which is why Brown County Water alleged in its Complaint that the Big Woods property was within Brown County Water's service area. “The federal regulations implementing § 1926 define service area. 7 C.F.R. § 1780.3. This definition is highly relevant to this proceeding. And the evidence will show that under that definition, the Property is in Nashville's service area. This evidence is not unfair or misleading; it simply doesn't favor BCWU.” (Filing No. 101 at 16.)

         As with Brown County Water's first request, the Court cannot opine that this evidence clearly is not admissible for any purpose. Therefore, evidence or argument about the definition of “service area” found at 7 C.F.R. § ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.