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Court dismisses septic suit against health board

 

On Monday, Jan. 7, LaGrange County Superior Court Judge George Brown granted a motion to dismiss a suit brought by Robert and Dianne Fiedler against the LaGrange County Health Department.

In the suit, the Fiedlers sought to have the court require the health department to issue a certificate stating that the septic system on the Fiedlers’ property is functioning properly. The suit was brought to court after the Fiedlers had made a request to the health board after having their septic system on their lot at Shipshewana Lake tested.

Under a state law that took effect in July, property owners can be exempt from hooking into a sewer system if they meet certain requirements. One such requirement is a certification from the county health department as proof that their septic system is functioning properly.

The Fiedlers told the court during a hearing on Nov. 9 that they had presented the results of a test of their septic system that they had paid for to the health board at the board’s July 10 meeting. Soon after that meeting, they received notification that the board would not issue the certificate, citing the county’s ordinance that requires properties within 500 ft. of a sewer line to hook into the system.

In his order filed Monday, Judge Brown noted that the “issuance of such a certificate is a discretionary act on the part of the Respondent (county health board); that is, the Respondent may grant or deny a request to issue such a certificate.” Judge Brown stated that while a court can mandate an official to perform a discretionary act, “the Court does not have the authority to mandate the official to exercise its discretion in a particular way.”

He ruled that the health board had exercised its discretion in denying the certificate, and that there was nothing that the court could mandate further. “While the Petitioners may have remedies available as a result of the Respondent’s actions, a mandate suit is not one of them,” Judge Brown said in the ruling.

Brown also found that the Fiedlers service of process was insufficient.