Before an Indiana premises liability lawsuit reaches trial, the plaintiff’s case will likely be challenged by the defendant through a process called summary judgment. Summary judgment is a procedural mechanism by which a court can summarily rule in one party’s favor when there are no factual disputes in the case, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
In order to survive a defense motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff must establish that there is a factual dispute that requires a fact-finder to make the ultimate determination. This likely means presenting evidence that contests some assertion made by the defense. For example, evidence showing that a traffic light was green when the defendant claims it was red may give rise to a factual dispute that needs resolution. Alternatively, if no factual dispute is present, a motion for summary judgment may be defeated by showing that the defendant is not entitled to judgment under the applicable law. A recent personal injury case illustrates how courts apply the summary judgment standard.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was a tenant in the defendant’s apartment complex. During a storm, a tree on an adjacent piece of property fell onto the apartment building where the plaintiff lived. The plaintiff attempted to get the defendant to remove the tree, but the defendant was not responsive to the plaintiff’s request. Eventually, the plaintiff contacted a fellow resident of the complex whom she knew to help the defendant out with maintenance around the complex.