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As a general rule, landowners have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for those whom they invite onto their land. An invitation may be an explicit one, such as an invitation to join a neighbor for dinner, or it may be implicit given the circumstances, such as a customer who visits a business. In either case, a duty arises on the part of the property owner.

WarehouseThe extent of the duty owed to a visitor depends largely on the relationship between the two parties and the purpose of the visit. For example, a business invitee, i.e., a customer, is owed the highest duty. When a landowner fails to take the necessary precautions to ensure their property is safe, they may be held liable through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit.

Of course, not all injuries occurring on another party’s property will result in the landowner being liable for the injuries. As a recent case illustrates, if a court determines that the hazard causing the plaintiff’s fall was “open and obvious,” the landowner does not owe the visitor a duty to warn them of the hazard.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case affirming the denial of the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial based on the alleged failure of the jury to consider what the plaintiff claimed to be uncontroverted evidence. The court, however, interpreted the evidence differently, finding that the evidence presented at trial was in conflict. That being the case, the court held that the jury was free to come to the conclusion that it did. Therefore, the trial court was proper in denying the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial.

Crashed CarThe case is relevant to Indiana car accident plaintiffs because it illustrates the analysis courts apply when determining whether a new trial is necessary. Additionally, a similar standard is applied by courts when determining whether a plaintiff’s case is sufficient to be submitted to a jury for trial in the first place.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and the defendant were involved in a car accident. Both parties believed that the accident was caused by the other’s negligence. However, only the plaintiff filed a lawsuit. The plaintiff testified at trial, claiming that the defendant changed lanes without signaling, resulting in the collision.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that clearly illustrates an issue that frequently arises in Indiana premises liability cases. The case involved a handyman who was seriously injured while moving a piece of glass while working at the defendant’s home. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff, who admitted to being aware of the risks involved with moving a sheet of glass, should be entitled to recover compensation for his injuries.

Broken GlassThe Facts of the Case

The defendant, a wheelchair-bound homeowner, hired the plaintiff to put in a bathroom in the defendant’s basement. Part of the job required the plaintiff to remove a large mirror that was glued to the basement’s wooden frame.

The plaintiff and the defendant decided that they would use a crowbar to remove the three wooden boards from the back of the glass. The first board was removed without incident. However, when the plaintiff removed the second board, the glass broke, leaving a sharp shard attached to the board. The plaintiff carried the board up to the front of the house and tossed it into a garbage can. However, somehow the glass that was attached to the wood sliced the plaintiff’s wrist, causing him serious and permanent injuries.

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Being involved in an Indiana car accident is a traumatic experience, and the road to recovery can be a long one. Initially, accident victims must deal with the physical and emotional injuries sustained in the crash. This can take months, if not longer. However, at some point, an Indiana car accident victim must also face the financial impact of the accident. Most often, this means filing a claim with an insurance company.

Cracked WindshieldWhile the purpose of car insurance is to make sure that accident victims are compensated for their injuries, insurance companies are for-profit enterprises that rely on taking in more money in premiums than they pay out in claims. This incentivizes insurance companies to deny coverage when possible, and to offer low settlement offers in hopes of resolving a claim in as inexpensive a manner as possible.

A recent case illustrates the difficulties one accident victim had when trying to file a claim with her father’s insurance company.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to interpret and apply the state’s recreational use statute. Ultimately, the court interpreted the statute as written to confer immunity to the defendant landowner, so the plaintiff’s case was dismissed. While the case was brought in a different state, it discusses concepts that may be relevant to Indiana premises liability claim.

Stadium SeatsRecreational Use Statutes

Under Indiana Code section 14-22-10-2-5, landowners who open up their land so that the general public can enjoy various recreational activities are not liable if someone engaging in a recreational activity is hurt while on the landowner’s property. However, the statute only confers immunity if the landowner does not require payment for the use of their land. Moreover, if the landowner’s conduct is malicious or constitutes an illegal act, immunity will not attach.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in the case mentioned above were the parents of a young girl who fell through the bleachers at a youth football game. In order to get into the game, the plaintiffs were required to pay the $2 admission fee; however, there was no fee for children under six years old. As a result of her fall, the plaintiffs’ daughter was seriously injured, and the plaintiffs filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city that owned and operated the stadium.

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All landowners, especially business owners, owe a duty of care to keep their property safe for those whom they invite onto their property. The extent of the duty owed to a visitor depends on the relationship between the landowner and the visitor, but as a general rule, the highest duty is owed to someone who visits for business purposes, i.e., a customer.

Gas PumpWhen a business owner fails to take adequate precautions to ensure safe premises, they may be liable for a visitor’s injuries through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit. However, a landowner’s duty is not absolute, and there are limitations. For example, in a recent case, an appellate court determined that a gas station was not required to continually clear ice that formed during a freezing rain storm and was able to wait until the storm subsided to begin clean-up efforts.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case was a shuttle driver for a retirement community. On a freezing, rainy day, the plaintiff pulled into the defendant gas station to fill the shuttle up with gas. However, as the plaintiff stepped out of the shuttle, he slipped on ice that had formed during the storm.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to determine if a plaintiff’s case against a ski resort could proceed toward trial despite the fact that she had signed an accident-release waiver prior to her injury. After reviewing the applicable law, the court concluded that the release waiver was enforceable and that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was barred as a matter of law. The case presents important issues for Indiana personal injury plaintiffs, since accident-release waivers are commonly used as a defense in certain Indiana negligence cases.

Steep SkiingThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff arranged to take a ski lesson at the defendant resort. Prior to getting out on the mountain, the plaintiff was presented with an accident-release waiver and asked to sign it. The waiver essentially stated that the plaintiff understood and appreciated the risks involved in skiing, that she accepted the risks, and that she agreed not to hold the resort liable in the event she was injured.

The plaintiff was later issued a lift ticket, which contained similar language on the reverse side of the ticket. The plaintiff proceeded with her lesson.

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During the formative years of the United States, certain principles were included in the U.S. Constitution and early amendments that still exist today. However, over time, the country has moved away from some of these principles and limited their application through the passage of new laws. One of the principles that has been continually rolled back over the past two centuries is the idea of government immunity.

Mountain BikingUnder the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and subsequent case-law interpreting that Amendment, the federal and state governments enjoy immunity from lawsuits filed by citizens unless the government waives this immunity. Initially, this meant that very few lawsuits could be brought against government entities. However, the federal and state governments began passing various “tort claims acts,” which would statutorily waive immunity in some circumstances.

In Indiana, the Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA) waives the government’s immunity in certain circumstances and provides procedural rules that Indiana accident victims must follow when bringing a lawsuit against the state government. The ITCA is designed to clarify under which situations the government can be held liable, and when the government’s inherent immunity remains intact. A recent case illustrates the difficulties one victim in another state had when he attempted to establish that his injuries fell outside the scope of government immunity.

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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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