Earlier this month, an appellate court in Maryland issued a written opinion in a case involving allegations that a cement company was negligent in the hiring of an independent contractor. In the case, Perry v. Asphalt & Concrete Services, Inc., the court ultimately decided that the plaintiff should not have been permitted to submit evidence of the truck driver’s lack of insurance unless the plaintiff was able to show that the lack of insurance was relevant to the negligent hiring claim.

tipper-417147_960_720The Facts of the Case

Back in 2009, the plaintiff, Perry, was crossing the street when he was struck by a dump truck. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered broken ribs as well as head trauma. After physically recovering from his injuries, Perry filed a negligence lawsuit against the truck’s driver, the trucking company, and the concrete company that hired the driver. Specific to the later claim, Perry asserted that the concrete company (ACS) negligently hired the driver, and that the company should be responsible for his injuries due to their negligence.

At trial, Perry tried to introduce evidence that the truck driver did not have insurance at the time of the accident. The court allowed the evidence to be considered by the jury, which found in favor of the plaintiff after hearing it. The total verdict amount was $529,500, including $500,000 for pain and suffering. Not satisfied with the court’s rulings on several evidentiary issues, ACS appealed.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Utah issued an opinion in an interesting case considering the age at which young children can be held legally responsible for their own negligent actions. In the case, Neilsen v. Bell, the court was not provided the opportunity to consider whether the parents were liable, and it had to look solely at the individual liability of the young child.

tricycle-691587_960_720The Facts of the Case

The case arose when the Bells’ four-year-old son injured his babysitter. According to the court’s written opinion, Neilsen was the woman the Bells chose to watch their son while they were away. On the day of the incident, the four-year-old boy threw a toy at Neilsen’s face, striking her in the eye. This ultimately caused her to completely lose sight in that eye.

Neilsen filed a lawsuit against the boy and his parents. The first claim alleged that the parents were negligent in their supervision of the child. This claim failed in the lower court, most likely since the child was in the plaintiff’s control at the time of the incident, and she agreed to assume care of the boy.

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Earlier this month, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case involving a woman who broke her leg while crossing a street. In the case, City of Beech Grove v. Beloat, the court determined that the city was not entitled to governmental immunity because the act of maintaining the road was not “discretionary,” as defined by the Indiana Tort Claims Act.

crosswalk-1215669The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was walking from her home in the City of Beech Grove to the library, when she briefly stepped out of the crosswalk to avoid a parked car. As she did so, she heard a snap and realized that her foot was caught in a hole in the pavement. She remained there until two bystanders helped her out. When she was taken to the hospital a short time later, it was discovered that she had suffered a broken leg. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city.

In response, the city claimed that it was entitled to immunity from the lawsuit based on the Indiana Tort Claims Act, which grants immunity to the government and government employees when they are performing a discretionary function. The trial court denied the city’s motion to dismiss the case on this ground, and the city appealed.

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Earlier this month, a North Dakota appellate court issued a written opinion finding that a county fairground was not legally responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries sustained during a free fireworks display. The court based its decision on the state’s “recreational use statute.”

fireworks-01-1538318The Facts of Woody v. Pembina County Annual Fair & Exhibition Association

The plaintiff in the case, Woody, was injured when she was attending a free fireworks display at her local fairground. Evidently, while Woody was looking for a seat to enjoy the show, she stepped on a rotted board and fell through the grandstand. As a result of her fall, she sustained serious injuries.

Woody filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Fair, alleging that the Fair’s negligence in failing to maintain the grandstands resulted in her injury. Prior to the beginning of the trial, the parties agreed to the facts, and the Fair asked the court to dismiss the case because it was entitled to immunity from the lawsuit, based on the state’s recreational use statute. The court determined that the Fair, as a non-profit and tax-exempt organization that opened up its land for the use and enjoyment of the general public at no charge, was entitled to immunity. Thus, Woody’s case was dismissed.

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Earlier last month, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia released an opinion regarding an incident of road rage that went too far, resulting in serious injury to one of the drivers involved. In the case, Phillips v. Stear, the court reversed a lower court’s opinion that had found that the plaintiff failed to make out his case against the defendant.

driving-933281_960_720The Accident

The accident that gave rise to the case occurred back in December 2010. According to court documents, the plaintiff and the defendant were both traveling in the same direction on the highway when the defendant swerved in front of the plaintiff, applied quick pressure to the brakes, and then made an obscene hand gesture toward the plaintiff. As a result of the rapid slow-down in front of him, the plaintiff truck driver also applied the brakes. However, as he did so, he lost control of the truck and crashed it off the side of the road.

A witness to the accident followed the defendant as he fled the scene, relaying the driver’s license plate information to the police. The police conducted a brief investigation and shortly thereafter located the defendant and issued a citation for an improper lane change. The defendant paid the ticket.

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When a party takes a case to trial and does not get the result they had hoped for, they can sometimes appeal the lower court’s decision to an appellate court to have the case reviewed. Most states, including Indiana, have three levels of courts: trial, intermediate appellate, and supreme. As the name implies, the trial court is where a trial takes place. If a party is not satisfied with a ruling, they may appeal to the intermediate appellate court. If that court finds against the party again, they can file another appeal in the state supreme court. In some very limited and specific circumstances, a party may be able to make one final appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

gavel-1017953_960_720A court, however, will not hear any issue merely because a party was not satisfied with the ultimate result; there must be some legal issue that is the basis of the appeal. Often, these are evidentiary rulings made by the trial judge.

Trial judges are supposed to follow rules of evidence, which dictate what kinds of evidence are admissible at trial. If evidence that was not supposed to be considered by the jurors is put before the jury, that may result in reversible error. Similarly, if a judge prevents a party from admitting evidence that should have been admitted, that too can qualify as reversible error. However, a party almost always has to “preserve” the error by objecting when the adverse ruling is made.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued an opinion in a case that began when a truck carrying a large piece of logging equipment got too close to the side of a bridge as it crossed. The logging equipment came free, ultimately crashing into a passing car. The specific issue in the case was whether the truck driver’s employer could be held liable in addition to the truck driver himself. The employer was responsible for traveling across the bridge in front of the truck to make sure that no oncoming motorists crossed at the same time the truck was crossing.

silver-jubilee-bridge-402943_960_720Brown v. Davis: An Employer Fails to Ensure the Road is Clear

When the wife of the man who was killed in the accident filed a lawsuit against the truck driver and his employer, the truck driver admitted that he was negligent. However, the employer denied that he was legally responsible for the man’s death. The case went to trial, and the jury ultimately awarded the plaintiff a $3 million verdict.

The defendant appealed to the intermediate appellate court, arguing that he owed no duty to the motorist, and even if it was determined that there was a duty owed, he did not breach that duty. The court disagreed and affirmed the lower court’s verdict. The defendant appealed again.

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Earlier this month, one state’s supreme court heard an appeal in a personal injury case in which the jury found that the defendant was liable for causing the accident but awarded the plaintiff zero dollars as compensation.

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Lowman v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company:  The Facts

In the case, Lowman v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, the plaintiff was struck by another driver who did not have insurance. The plaintiff had her own insurance through State Farm. This insurance policy had, among other things, coverage for accidents caused by uninsured motorists. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against State Farm.

Importantly, this case presented only limited issues. For starters, State Farm admitted that the uninsured motorist was negligent in causing the accident. Thus, the only issue for the jury to consider was whether the uninsured motorist’s negligence caused any harm to the plaintiff. In addition, the plaintiff withdrew her claim seeking lost wages, and she also admitted that her medical bill had already been paid. So the only claim in front of the jury was whether she suffered “pain and suffering” as a result of the accident.

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The New York Court of Appeals, which is the highest state appellate court in New York, recently released a decision affirming two lower court decisions to exclude a plaintiff’s proposed expert witnesses in a personal injury case filed on behalf of a child who was born with serious birth defects and disabilities alleged to have resulted from his mother inhaling gasoline fumes while she was pregnant with him. The plaintiff in Sean R. v. BMW of North America, LLC alleged that a defective fuel line in the mother’s car caused her to breath toxic levels of gasoline vapor while she was pregnant and resulted in the serious disabilities from which the child continues to suffer.

bmw-z3-mean-1549766The New York Court of Appeals agreed with the rulings of the other courts and found that two of the plaintiff’s proposed experts in the case did not rely on generally accepted scientific principles to reach the conclusions that supported the plaintiff’s case, so their testimony should not be heard by the jury. As a result of this final ruling, the plaintiff will not be compensated for the injuries that he alleged were caused by the negligence of the defendant.

Pregnant Mother-To-Be Continuously Smells Gasoline Vapors While Driving

The plaintiff’s mother had purchased a car from the defendant in 1989, and within two years of buying the car, she began to notice a strong smell of gasoline while driving. According to the recently released opinion, she was also able to smell the vapor from her home when the car was parked in the garage. After taking the car into the dealer, she was told they could not find a problem. Shortly after the problem of gasoline vapors arose, the woman became pregnant with the plaintiff. After the gasoline odor worsened, the plaintiff’s father brought the car back to the dealer, and a fuel leak was found in the engine compartment, caused by a split hose. The leak was fixed, but the plaintiff’s mother had driven 6,458 miles over the course of eight months while the leak was present, and part of that time she was pregnant with the plaintiff.

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The United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a lower court’s decision against an Indiana man who lost his foot in a crane accident. The court agreed with the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant in the case, which involved a plaintiff who was injured when a crane he had leased from the defendant allegedly malfunctioned and drove itself over his foot and leg. The courts ruled that the plaintiff failed to raise a material issue of fact to demonstrate the required element of causation in the man’s negligence claim. Based on the ruling, the victim of the accident will be unable to recover compensation for his injuries.

crane-3-1506047A Crane Owned by the Defendant Ran Over the Plaintiff’s Foot

The accident that led to the filing of Carson v. All Erection & Crane Rental Corporation occurred on September 20, 2012, as the plaintiff was working with another contractor to use a crane rented from the defendant to install wind turbines. According to the Seventh Circuit’s decision, the other contractor was behind the controls of the crane, when the plaintiff started to guide him across a road from in front of the crane. When the plaintiff signaled the other contractor to stop the crane, it stopped momentarily, but it lurched forward shortly afterwards and caused the plaintiff to fall in the vehicle’s path. The crane’s treads then crushed his right foot, which had to be amputated.

Post-Accident Inspection Finds Malfunctioning Electrical Components

After the accident, an employee of the defendant inspected the crane and discovered that there was an intermittent problem with the electronics that controlled the crane’s movement. The inspection revealed that the “travel detent” system, which is similar to cruise control in a passenger vehicle, would intermittently engage and cause the crane to drive forward on its own without any action by the operator. Based on the discovery of the defect and his serious injuries, the plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that their failure to properly inspect the crane before delivering it to the plaintiff caused his injuries.

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