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Soames v. Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Court of Appeals of Indiana
934 N.E.2d 1154 (2010)


Facts

Cynthia Soames (plaintiff) was a landowner. Soames entered into a lease agreement with Young Oil Company (Young). Under the agreement, Young operated several oil wells on Soames’s property. A short time later, Soames filed a complaint against Young alleging breach of contract. Young eventually stopped oil production on Soames’s property when the lease agreement was terminated by a court. The state’s Department of Natural Resources (the department) (defendant) issued notices to Young alleging that the wells it operated on Soames’s property were in noncompliance with state law. The department instructed Young to plug the wells. Young offered to plug the wells, but Soames refused to permit Young to enter her property. An administrative-law judge held that both Young and Soames had a duty to plug the wells. Young appealed the decision, arguing that Soames prevented Young from plugging the wells. A hearing was then held in front of the department. The department adopted the administrative-law judge’s finding, but added that Soames may, at her expense, select a licensed professional to observe and record the plugging of the wells. Soames argued that the relevant statute did not mandate plugging, and that the department abused its discretion by holding that plugging was required. Soames petitioned for judicial review. The trial court denied the petition. Soames appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Najam, J.)

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