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Appeals court ruling sides with Allen County Public Library in lawsuit against contractors over diesel leak

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 10:12 am

The Allen County Public Library can proceed with a lawsuit against four contractors, according to a ruling from the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The contention stems from a leak of diesel fuel for emergency generators in the basement of the main library in downtown Fort Wayne. In 2007, after construction of the enlarged and renovated library was finished, library officials discovered that 3,000 gallons of diesel had leaked into the ground underneath the building. The library argues that the leak was caused by damage to a fuel pipe caused during construction.

Contractors named in a lawsuit – Shambaugh & Son, Hamilton Hunter Builders, W.A. Sheets & Sons and MSKTD & Associates – argue that insurance purchased by the library before construction removes their liability for the cleanup of the fuel, which had cost $490,000 when the suit was filed in 2010. The library's construction insurance limited payment for pollution cleanup to $5,000, which the insurer paid.

A trial court agreed, granting a summary judgment against the library's lawsuit. But the Appeals Court decided that the insurance does not block the library for suing based on damage other than to the construction itself. Because leaking fuel affects property other than the building itself, the Appeals Court said, the suit can continue.