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NIPSCO not liable in city’s pipe suit

Appeals court rules on ’09 break, floods

– The destruction of a sewer pipe by NIPSCO five years ago – and the downtown flooding that ensued – was not the natural gas company’s fault.

That’s according to a ruling from the Indiana Court of Appeals this week, bringing an end to another chapter in a lawsuit between NIPSCO and the city of Fort Wayne.

At the heart of the lawsuit, filed by the city against NIPSCO, is a crushed pipe discovered after the company did remediation work in the area of Barr and Superior streets.

The remediation work began in January 2009 near Don Hall’s Old Gas House, the former site of the City Gas plant that operated from 1851 to 1948.

After NIPSCO completed the work in May 2009, the city experienced flooding in the area throughout construction and afterward.

In addition, pressure built up in the sewer system, and seven manhole covers were blown up from the ground, according to the city’s lawsuit.

When the city inspected the area, workers found a 48-inch drain pipe “was permanently crushed and clogged with concrete material placed in the ground by NIPSCO as part of the remediation project.”

But according to court documents, the city failed to provide a map that correctly showed the sewer pipe’s location.

NIPSCO lawyers claimed the company could not be at fault for the damage.

Ultimately, NIPSCO asked Allen Superior Court Judge Stanley Levine to dismiss the lawsuit and rule in favor of the company, which he did last summer.

Still, the city appealed the decision, partly claiming that the trial court failed to address whether NIPSCO had a common law duty not to crush the sewer line, according to court documents.

The appeals ruling said that any common law duty NIPSCO may have had with the city no longer exists because of updated state legislation.

In the initial lawsuit, the city said it had spent $100,000 in repairs to fix the problem caused by the remediation work.

City officials declined to comment Friday or say whether they would further appeal the decision.