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When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States earlier this year, many Americans flocked to the stores to stock up on hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, soaps, and other household cleaning supplies. Major retailers such as Walmart, CVS, and Target were out of these products for weeks due to the increased demand. Many Indiana residents probably found themselves buying these products to prepare for an unknown future with the virus. However, recent recalls have made clear that some of these products may have caused Indiana residents to fall ill, and may be implicated in future Indiana products’ liability suits.

According to a recent article by the Washington Post, federal regulators have recalled dozens of hand sanitizers because they contain dangerous and potentially deadly levels of wood alcohol, also called methanol. Many of these products have been available in mainstream retailers like Wal-Mart. The Food and Drug Administration has identified at least 77 products since June that consumers should avoid due to their methanol levels. Methanol can be toxic when it is absorbed through the skin, and can cause blindness, causing great concerns since hand sanitizer is applied to the skin and has been applied in large quantities since the beginning of the pandemics. The products are mislabeled, meaning consumers cannot tell which hand sanitizers contain methanol and which ones do not.

It is thought that the increased demand for hand sanitizer and other household cleaning or disinfectant supplies led to the unsafe products. In response to the demand, many companies began to increase their production, but failed to ensure the quality of the product would remain the same. As a result, hand sanitizers that were unsafe for consumers made it into the market. The Washington Post reported that at least seven people have died and dozens of others have been hospitalized as a result of the unsafe hand sanitizer.

Landlords, like all property owners, have a duty to ensure that the houses and apartments they rent to tenants are safe.  Whether it is the driveway being plowed after a snowstorm or handling potentially dangerous maintenance issues, tenants often have certain expectations for their landlord. If a person is hurt because of their landlord’s negligence, Indiana law allows them to hold the landlord liable for their injuries.

In a recent state appellate opinion, the court was tasked with deciding whether a landlord could be held liable for a tenant’s slip and fall outside of the apartment complex. According to the court’s opinion, the tenant was severely injured exiting the apartment building, slipping on a patch of ice in the driveway. While the landlord normally hired a snow plow contractor to keep the driveway safe, they failed to do so this particular winter. The plaintiff sued his landlord for not keeping the property safe and not removing the snow and ice from the driveway, the cause of his injury.

In this case, the court noted that a tenant who slips on ice can bring a negligence claim against a landlord who failed to exercise reasonable care in removing the ice, unless the plaintiff is more than fifty percent responsible for their injuries. Here, the court ruled that the landlord was negligent as he did not attempt to remove the snow or ice. However, the court also held that the tenant’s injuries were more attributable to his own error than the landlord’s. Thus, the court found that the landlord was not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Driving on a busy interstate can be dangerous, so it’s always important to engage in defensive driving and to be proactive and alert on the road. However, one can only do so much to be safe, and Indiana car accidents will still occur even when a motorist is exercising the most caution possible. Thus, when a car crash occur sunexpectedly, especially as a result of negligence from the responsible party and cause fatalities, those who are at fault in these collisions can be held accountable.

In a recent news report, an Indiana truck driver was charged with nine felonies related to an Interstate 70 accident. The driver had previously been arrested three times for drug possession in another state and was jailed following the accident. He was charged with four Level 4 felony counts of operating while intoxicated and causing death, four Level 5 felony counts of reckless homicide, and one Level 4 felony count of driving while intoxicated and causing a catastrophic injury. The tragic car accident resulted in the death of four children.

Following the accident, results of a urine test taken hours after the accident came back positive for the presence of marijuana, amphetamines, and ecstasy in the driver’s system. Despite completing a drug treatment program after being arrested for possession of heroin previously in another state and multiple other drug-related offenses, the legal system failed to keep this man off the roads until this fatal accident.

International travel can present travelers with some unique legal issues, including jurisdictional conflicts. In some cases, the claims may involve a different country or a foreign airport or airline. The Montreal Convention addresses the inherent issues that many Indiana personal injury victims face after these types of accidents. The Montreal Convention is a multilateral treaty adopted by many counties to establish standards for the international transport of passengers, baggage, and cargo. It covers all international flights between counties that are a party to the treaty.

A significant portion of the treaty includes what rights passengers have when they suffer injuries on a flight, experience a flight disruption, or an adverse situation with their luggage or cargo. At its core, the treaty makes an airline strictly liable for injuries or death that a passenger experiences, because of an “accident” that occurs while embarking or disembarking the aircraft.

Issues often arise over the circumstances surrounding an “accident,” and what the term covers. Courts tend to agree that the term “accident” is vague, but that it does include injuries resulting from terroristic activities, passenger assaults, and an airline’s failure to treat passengers who are experiencing a medical event adequately. Further complications develop when the harmful event occurs outside of the aircraft. In these situations, courts will evaluate whether the incident happened when the victim was in the “operation” of boarding or exiting the plane. This inquiry involves looking at the victim’s actions when the event occurred and the exact location of the incident.

Recently, an Indiana appellate court issued a ruling regarding personal injury claims resulting from participation in sports activity. According to the court’s opinion, the case involved a horse jockey who was injured while training a horse at a racetrack. The jockey was injured when another horse, which had thrown off its rider, barreled into the jockey’s horse tossing him to the ground. The jockey sued the racetrack and the horse’s owner for damages based on negligence and premises liability. However, the court found in favor of the defendants, and the jockey was prevented from recovering damages for his injuries. The court’s opinion could have far-reaching implications for individuals injured while participating in sporting activities.

In reviewing the plaintiff’s claims, the court first reviewed Indiana sports-injury law, and mentioned a few important precedents. First, there is the rule of assumption of duty, which states that an actor who provides safety measures as a service to another and is aware the services will reduce a risk of harm to that individual owes a duty of care to that individual. A defendant violates that duty of care, and may be held liable for resulting injury, if (1) they are negligent in providing that service and it results in an increased risk of harm, or (2) the individual receiving the services relies on the actor in assuming the risk of injury involved. Next, the court discussed the concept that a sports participant cannot be held liable for causing injury to another while engaging in conduct ordinary to the sport unless they acted recklessly or with intent to cause the injury. This rule is rooted in public policy, and designed to prevent discouragement of athletic participation due to vexatious litigation.

In applying these principles to the case in its opinion, the court first pointed out that the plaintiff did not make any allegations that the racetrack owner’s negligence in employing certain safety measures it had in place increased the risk of harm to the plaintiff. Furthermore, the plaintiff did not present any evidence showing that he relied on the racetrack’s safety measures properly when deciding to engage in the activity. In effect, the court found that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury associated with participation in the activity. Therefore, the court ruled against the plaintiff in regard to his claims against the racetrack owner.

The human instinct to help those in need, even at the risk of one’s own safety, is commendable. When a person is injured during such a situation, the rescue doctrine can come into play. In Indiana, the rescue doctrine allows an individual who is injured attempting to rescue someone from a dangerous situation to hold the negligent actor liable. In order to bring a successful claim, the rescuer must prove: (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to protect him from injury; (2) the defendant failed to perform that duty; and (3) the plaintiff’s harm resulted from the defendant’s failure to protect him from injury. If an individual is considered a rescuer, then he is owed a duty of care by those that contributed to the dangerous situation.

In a recent case, another state supreme court was recently tasked with deciding whether a man qualified as a rescuer when he was injured after encouraging others to stop fighting. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff was a rescuer despite exerting no bodily activity to intervene in the situation. However, in Indiana, an individual must actually attempt to rescue and exert physical effort to be qualified as a rescuer.   

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured after attempting to rescue a taxi cab driver from an intoxicated passenger. Hearing cries for help, the plaintiff approached the cab and told the passenger to stop punching the driver. The plaintiff was then hit over the head and run over by the passenger. He filed a lawsuit against the taxi cab company because they had knowledge of previous passenger attacks on drivers but had failed to install partitions or security cameras. Relying on the rescue doctrine, he claimed he was injured while rescuing the driver, who was owed a duty by the cab company, meaning it also owed a duty to him. Among other issues, the court was tasked with deciding whether the plaintiff was considered a rescuer even though he did not take bodily action to save the driver from danger. The court ruled that, rather than requiring physical intervention, one must assess whether a plaintiff can qualify as a rescuer based on three important factors: (1) the plaintiff’s reason for acting, (2) the plaintiff’s reasonable belief that someone was in imminent peril, and (3) the utility of the plaintiff’s conduct. The plaintiff satisfied the test and qualified as a rescuer.

Everyone knows that driving involves a certain level of risk for the driver and their passengers. However, many Indiana car accidents are preventable and drivers are able to reduce many of the risks that can lead to an accident. When these avoidable accidents occur because of a lack of compliance with Indiana laws, the parties responsible can be held accountable through an Indiana personal injury lawsuit.

In a recent news report, a local construction worker was tragically killed in northwest Indiana. Evidently, at around 2:00 am, the individual’s construction vehicle was pulled over onto the right shoulder of the road when a semi-truck hit the worker’s vehicle, killing him. The construction worker was in his vehicle and responsible for collecting barrels on the shoulder of the road when the semi struck his car. According to the ongoing investigation by state police, authorities are still examining how the construction truck was struck by the semi when it was pulled off the road and on the shoulder, especially as road conditions appeared dry at the time of the incident. Because the investigation is ongoing, it is still unclear if any charges will be filed as a result of this incident.

Tragedies like this are a somber reminder of the risks that motorists can be exposed to when driving or involved in an accident. While car accidents can occur anywhere and often happen on a regular basis, many Indiana construction and highway workers, emergency responders, and individuals who work for law enforcement are more likely to be in roadside accidents because of the nature of their work. However, many of these incidents would be avoidable if Indiana motorists simply exercised a more proactive, vigilant approach while driving on a daily basis.

As the weather warms up and summer rolls in, flocks of people will begin to make their way to water parks around Indiana where they can enjoy time with family and cool off, or seek the thrill of a roller coaster or a water slide. While most of these trips are packed with fun memories, these parks are often unable to guarantee visitors’ safety, and should be held accountable if a ride or attraction causes a visitor’s injuries.

According to a recent appellate opinion, a plaintiff brought a products liability suit against a local water park after he was injured while going down a water slide. The plaintiff inadvertently slipped from a seated position on an inner tube onto his stomach, and when he entered the pool below, his feet hit the bottom and he fractured his pelvis and hip. Despite the evidence of injury presented by the plaintiff, the trial court ruled in favor of the defense on the products liability claim.

On appeal, the defense argued that the plaintiff’s product liability claims should fail because the water park provides its patrons with a service, rather than a product. The park argued that guests pay admission to obtain a “service” involving the use of water slides rather than paying a fee to primarily use the water slides. Thus, according to the defendant, the plaintiff’s product liability claim was not a viable theory of recovery.

Tragedy struck recently in Fort Wayne, Indiana when a crash between a motorcycle and a car turned deadly, killing the motorcyclist. According to a news report covering the incident, the crash occurred on Sunday, May 24, around 2:40 p.m. at the intersection of Illinois Road and Thomas Road. The motorcycle was driving east on Illinois Road and struck a car that was turning into its path. When authorities arrived on the scene, they found an adult female laying on the ground in critical condition. She was immediately transported to the hospital, where she died shortly after.

Cases like this highlight the dangers that motorcyclists face when involved in accidents. While any motor vehicle accident is of concern, motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable because there is less protection between their bodies and the road, or with other vehicles. Because of this, accidents involving motorcycles are more likely to result in severe injuries or death.

The incident in Fort Wayne is still under investigation, so it is not yet clear who was at fault. If, however, the driver of the car was at all negligent or responsible for the accident, the deceased cyclist’s family members may be able to file a wrongful death suit against them. Indiana law allows the estate of a deceased accident victim to file such claims, and damages may be awarded to the estate or to individual family members, such as the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents. To be successful, the estate typically must prove that the other driver was negligent in some way—for example, that they were texting while driving, or that they failed to follow basic road safety—and that their negligence was the direct and proximate cause of the accident and the victim’s death. If the defendant was texting while driving five minutes before the crash, but then was driving perfectly safely when the accident occurred, it may be difficult to prove causation. If, however, the defendant was texting while driving when the crash occurred, causation will be easier to prove.

Like many other states, Indiana premises liability law generally allows those injured on someone else’s property to file a civil negligence suit against the property owner. For example, if someone slips and falls on a wet floor in a grocery store, or trips on an uneven sidewalk in front of someone’s house, they likely have a potential negligence suit against the owner of the grocery store or house property. However, Indiana also has what is called a recreational-use statute, to insulate certain landowners from such claims. The law, which is in Indiana Code section 14-22-10-2, provides that landowners who allow those to use their property for recreational purposes—such as swimming, camping, or sightseeing—without charging a fee are not liable for the injuries occurring on the property.

For an example of a personal injury suit that would likely be barred by this statute, take a recent appellate opinion from Georgia, a state with a similar law. According to the court’s written opinion, a public park was used by a University to set up a free concert series. On the night in question, the plaintiff attended the concert with her sister, but as she was leaving, she fell backward on a staircase with no handrails, sustaining serious head injuries and ultimately dying. Her estate filed a wrongful death suit against the University group that held the concert, but the defendants claimed their suit was barred by the Georgia recreational use statute.

The question in the case was whether the defendant invited people to the park for recreational or commercial purposes. The plaintiffs attempted to argue that the concert served a commercial purpose, since the defendant invited vendors to sell food and drinks, and allowed sponsors to erect tents with their logos to promote their businesses. However, the defendants were able to convince the court that the purpose was recreational despite these facts, since concert-goers were not required to purchase food or drinks and could bring their own, and there was no fee charged for the concert. As a result, the deceased’s estate could not recover in a wrongful death suit against the University group, and in fact could not even bring the suit to court.

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