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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued an opinion in a product liability case that illustrates the importance of vetting and selecting an expert witness in an Indiana product liability case. Ultimately, the court concluded that the experts whom the plaintiff planned to have testify at trial did not base their opinions on sufficiently reliable methodology, and thus it excluded the experts’ opinions from testimony.

Laptop KeyboardThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s son was killed in a house fire in the plaintiff’s basement. After the fire, investigators searched through the basement for signs of what could have caused the fire. Several battery cells from their son’s laptop were recovered. One of the battery cells had ruptured, and the plaintiffs believed it was due to a defect in the battery. Thus, the plaintiffs filed a product liability case against the manufacturer of the laptop, the battery, and several components of the battery.

In support of their case, the plaintiffs presented testimony from two expert witnesses. The first was a “battery expert” who had a PhD in inorganic chemistry. He planned on testifying that, according to his experience, the fire was caused by an internal defect in the battery. While the expert acknowledged that being exposed to the heat of the fire could have caused the battery cell to rupture, the expert concluded that if that were the case, he would have expected all three battery cells to have ruptured. However, since only one cell ruptured, he concluded that the most likely cause of the fire was an internal defect in the ruptured cell.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that illustrates an important point for Indiana car accident victims. The case involved the plaintiff’s appeal after a jury found that the defendant was liable for the car accident but did not award the plaintiff any compensation for future medical expenses. Ultimately, the court concluded that the testimony of the expert witness presented by the plaintiff was equivocal in stating that the plaintiff’s need for future medical treatment was due to the car accident.

SUV AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident that was undisputedly caused by another driver. The at-fault driver did not possess sufficient insurance to cover the plaintiff’s injuries, so the plaintiff filed an underinsured motorist claim under her own insurance policy.

The plaintiff’s insurance company denied the claim, taking the position that the injuries the plaintiff claimed she sustained in the accident were actually pre-existing at the time of the accident and thus were not covered under her policy. In support of her claim, the plaintiff had the orthopedic surgeon who treated and operated on her testify to the care he provided as well as his estimation of what the plaintiff’s future medical needs would be.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing the potential repercussions for committing fraud on the court. The case is instructive to Indiana car accident plaintiffs in showing the importance of selecting a reputable and honest attorney, as well as the importance of being truthful in all pleadings and testimony before the court.

LuggageThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff hired a car company to take her to the dock where she was planning on boarding a ship for a cruise. Once the plaintiff arrived, she was unloading her luggage from the rear of the vehicle when it suddenly began to reverse. The vehicle pinned the plaintiff underneath the rear axle and caused serious injuries. The plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for 10 days and suffered a broken leg.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the car company, arguing that the driver’s negligence resulted in her being run over and sustaining a broken leg. During pre-trial discovery, the plaintiff completed written interrogatories indicating that she had a permanent limp, that she uses a cane to walk, and that she cannot carry large objects due to her injuries.

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Understanding the role of an expert witness in a personal injury lawsuit is critical to the success of many Indiana premises liability lawsuits. Generally speaking, an expert witness is used when the issues involved in the case are complex, scientific, or otherwise beyond the scope of an average juror’s common experiences.

Pile of TiresSimilarly, most medical malpractice cases require the testimony of an expert witness, and some car accident cases use the testimony of an accident reconstructionist. A recent case illustrates a slip-and-fall plaintiff’s successful use of an expert witness to survive a summary judgment challenge by the defense.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff took her trailer to the defendant tire shop for repairs. Upon arrival, the plaintiff entered the shop through the side entrance, approached the employee at the desk, and arranged for the repairs to be completed. The plaintiff then safely left the same way she had entered.

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After an Indiana car accident, there is a long way to recovery. First, an accident victim must deal with the physical and emotional toll that the accident takes. Once the body and mind have sufficiently recovered, there are usually still unsettled matters such as medical expenses, lost wages, and the loss of enjoyment of life that accompanies being an accident victim.

StethoscopeIn many cases, insurance companies provide accident victims compensation for their injuries. However, insurance companies are operated on a for-profit model and will too often deny the claims of accident victims or offer significantly less compensation to them than an accident victim needs or deserves. A recent case illustrates one accident victim’s difficulties in dealing with an insurance company after a car accident.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident. The other driver was insured by the defendant insurance company. The insurance company acknowledged that their customer was at fault in causing the accident and provided advance payment of the plaintiff’s medical expenses for a period of about six months.

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Being involved in an Indiana car accident is a traumatic experience. Of course, an accident victim must first deal with the physical injuries and emotional stress in the aftermath of the accident. After the injuries heal, however, there are often unresolved financial issues, including the payment of medical bills, how to pay for future medical care, the money lost from workdays missed, and the pain and suffering endured throughout the process.

ContractAnyone involved in a car accident can file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party, seeking to recover compensation for their injuries. However, in some cases, the at-fault motorist does not have insurance or has low policy limits, such that an accident victim’s injuries are not fully covered. In these situations, an accident victim may file a claim with their own insurance policy, under the uninsured/underinsured motorist provision.

One may think that filing a claim with their own insurance company is a simple process; however, that is not always the case. Insurance companies are for-profit corporations that are always keeping their bottom line in mind. Thus, many insurance companies view incoming claims with an eye toward how the claim can be denied. Indeed, a recent case illustrates how one plaintiff’s innocent error caused her to forfeit any underinsured motorist claim under her own policy.

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Indiana schools have a duty to ensure the safety of students while they are attending school and after-school activities. This duty generally requires that school employees and administrators take reasonable precautions to prevent injuries. For example, schools are required to maintain safe premises, free of dangerous hazards that may result in an Indiana slip-and-fall accident.

Field HockeySchools are also responsible to take adequate precautions when designing curriculums, especially in classes that present a heightened danger, such as shop classes and gym classes. However, there are several legal doctrines that can come into play when a student is injured at school. A recent case illustrates the type of analysis a court will conduct when considering whether a school can be held liable for a student’s injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a student at the defendant school. One day in gym class, the plaintiff was injured when he was accidentally struck in the eye by another student’s stick during a game of floor hockey. After the accident, the plaintiff required eye surgery.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by a man who was seriously injured while crossing the street after parking in the defendant’s off-site parking lot. The case presents an issue that often comes up in Indiana premises liability cases:  specifically, whether the defendant landowner owed the plaintiff a duty of care under the facts of the case.

CrosswalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a petitioner at the defendant church. On a rainy evening, the plaintiff drove to the church for an evening seminar. Upon arriving at the church, the plaintiff realized that the on-site parking lot was full. A church volunteer directed the plaintiff across the street, to the church’s off-site parking lot. The parking lot was located immediately across a five-lane road.

The plaintiff parked in the off-site parking lot. He exited his car and, rather than walk the 50 to 100 feet to the nearest intersection, attempted to cross right where he had parked. As he was partially across the road, he was struck by a passing vehicle.

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Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals all have a duty to provide a certain level of care to their patients. While not every adverse patient event will be a basis for a lawsuit, when someone is injured due to negligently provided medical care, they may be able to recover compensation for their injuries through an Indiana medical malpractice lawsuit.

Examination TableThese cases are unique in that they are subject to additional requirements over and above other Indiana personal injury lawsuits. For example, Indiana Code section 34-18-8-4 states that an Indiana medical malpractice plaintiff must first file a complaint with a medical review board prior to filing the lawsuit in a court of law.

Once the complaint is filed, a panel of four (consisting of one qualified attorney who practices in that area of the law and three qualified health care providers) will review the claim and determine whether it has merit. If the claim is determined to have merit, the plaintiff will be allowed to file a lawsuit, and the results of the claim will be admissible at trial. However, the results will not necessarily dictate the outcome of the case, since the defendant will also be able to present a defense if there is one.

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Earlier this month, the federal circuit court of appeals overseeing both the northern and southern districts of Indiana issued an opinion in a medical malpractice case illustrating the importance of expert testimony in Indiana medical malpractice lawsuits. The case was brought to the court by the plaintiff’s appeal, which claimed that the lower court had erred in finding in favor of the defense. However, the appellate court agreed that the testimony of the defendant’s expert witness was supported by the patient’s medical records and that the plaintiff’s expert witness was impeached as to his failure to consult relevant medical literature. As a result, the court affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendant.

WheelchairThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the wife of a man who died shortly after he was admitted into the care of a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. Initially, the plaintiff’s husband was at the hospital for routine lab work, but when the results came back abnormal, he was admitted. At the time, the plaintiff’s husband suffered from a number of medical conditions, including morbid obesity, respiratory acidosis, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.

The plaintiff’s husband was not complaining of anything specific, but the plaintiff told hospital workers that she wanted someone with him at all times because he “was not acting like himself.” The hospital determined that the plaintiff’s husband was not in need of a personal sitter, which is normally only necessary in cases involving psychotic and delirious patients.

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