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Indiana Agricultural Law Foundation May 2018 Issue
InAgLaw Hdr

What's So Mutual about Mutual Drains?

Colleen Whiting Pic - Legal Intern 2018
Colleen Whiting
INFB Legal Intern

A Look into Frazee v. Skees, a 2015 Case with Major Impacts on Mutual Drainage Disputes

Mutual drains present several complicated and unclear drainage issues. What rights and obligations does each landowner have if there are repairs to made,natural or intentional obstructions in the drain? In the 2015 Court of Appeals case, Frazee v. Skees, the Indiana courts start to address some of these murky issues. This opinion can guide lawyers and farmers as they work through mutual drainage.

Freeze and the Skeeses were neighboring landowners whose properties shared a subsurface mutual drain with a clay tile. The drain was installed approximately seventy to eighty years before this dispute. Due to a complicated and involved set of facts spanning over three years, below is a very basic sketch of the facts. To see the full fact pattern, please see Frazee v. Skees, 30 N.E.3d 22 (Ind. App. 2015). In 2011, the Skeeses’ sewage was found on the Frazee property. At the direction of the Tippecanoe Health Department, the Skeeses replaced their septic system and installed a sump pump. Even after installation, Frazee found sewage on her property. In response, Frazee unplugged the sump pump, which caused a flooding in the Skeeses’ basement. The Health Department stepped in again and created a perimeter drain based solution that severed the Skeeses’ basement connection to the mutual drain but reconnected to the drain at a later spot. There was no burden placed on the drain. Throughout the duration of the sewage issue, Frazee altered and repaired parts of the mutual drain but for her own convenience and benefit, not for the mutual benefit of the two landowners.

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Save the Date

The Indiana Agricultural Law Foundation will hold its 5th installment of the Estate & Succession Planning for the Family Farm program on Tuesday, July 17, 2018. The program will help farm families and attorneys understand the importance of estate and succession planning to their business. Along with general planning techniques, attendees will learn how family dynamics can affect estate and succession planning. Sign up at after June 4.




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