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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a woman who was run over by a truck as she was on location fighting a wildfire. The court ultimately determined that since the woman’s injuries were caused in the course of her employment as a firefighter, she was not able to pursue a case against the driver of the vehicle that ran her over.

FiremenThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a firefighter who was called out to assist in fighting a particularly serious wildfire. The team of firefighters had set up a base camp in the middle of a race track, where there were restrooms and showers. Most of the firefighters camped a short distance from the racetrack. However, by the time the plaintiff arrived at the camp, all of the sites were taken, and she had to search for another place to sleep.

The plaintiff sought permission from her supervisor to set up camp in the middle of the race track, near where base camp was set up. She was granted permission and set up camp. However, on the second night staying there, a truck that was driven by a government contractor ran over the plaintiff as she was sleeping. She sustained serious injuries and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the truck’s driver and several other government entities.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who claimed he slipped and fell in a fast food restaurant. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss how lower courts should handle summary judgment motions filed by the defendant when conflicting facts exists. Since summary judgment is only appropriate when the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, when a court is presented with conflicting or contradictory theories, summary judgment is not appropriate, and the case should be presented to a jury for resolution of the contested facts.

Slippery WarningThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff slipped and fell as he was exiting the restroom in the defendant fast food restaurant. According to the plaintiff, he fell after he exited the restroom but before he could reach the back of the line. Evidently, as he planted his left foot to make a right turn, his foot slipped out from underneath him. He claimed an oily substance on the floor caused his fall.

The restaurant presented the court with video evidence of the line, as well as the cash-register area. The video showed a man, who appeared to be the plaintiff, slipping but not falling. The restaurant claimed that this showed that the plaintiff was lying about falling and asked the court to strike his testimony. In the alternative, the restaurant argued that the hazard allegedly causing the plaintiff’s fall was “open and obvious” because the lobby area in the video had recently been mopped, and an employee placed a “wet floor” sign near the area to warn customers.

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Sometimes car accidents are unavoidable. However, in many cases, car accidents can be prevented by taking certain precautions and with the exercise of common sense. In Indiana, the leading causes of car accidents are reckless driving, distracted driving, and intoxicated driving. In each of these situations, a driver has the ability to avoid the risk factors that contribute to the accident.

Whiskey for TwoIntoxicated driving, in particular, poses a serious threat to Indiana motorists. In fact, there are over 170 fatal traffic accidents each year in Indiana involving alcohol or some other intoxicating substance. While alcohol intoxication is the most common form of intoxicated driving, the law does not distinguish between intoxication by alcohol or intoxication by other substances. Indeed, in Indiana, it is even possible for a motorist to be deemed intoxicated after having taken prescription medication.

When an intoxicated motorist causes an accident resulting in injuries, that driver may be held responsible through an Indiana drunk driving lawsuit. In many cases, the fact that the other driver was intoxicated can make proving allegations of negligence easier for an accident victim, since drunk driving is specifically prohibited by law. While it may make an accident victim’s case easier to prove if the at-fault driver was cited or criminally charged for their conduct, there is no requirement that this be the case.

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Over the past several years, General Motors has paid out over $2 billion in fines and damages related to faulty ignition switches in several of the company’s models. In cases across the country, accident victims claimed that GM was responsible for their injuries, due to the faulty switches. However, the problem was not just that the switches were faulty but also that there was evidence that GM knew about the defects but failed to take appropriate action.

Car KeysAfter the defect was discovered, GM filed for bankruptcy. Post-bankruptcy, GM then argued that it should not be held liable in any of the lawsuits stemming from the faulty ignition switch that were filed prior to the company filing for bankruptcy. An earlier lower court ruling rejected the company’s claim, finding that the company may be held liable for the pre-bankruptcy claims. GM then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to a national news source, the United States Supreme Court recently rejected GM’s appeal, leaving in place the lower court decision. Some experts hypothesize that the most recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion could expose the auto-manufacturing giant to liability in a significant number of unsettled cases, potentially resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a number of people who were injured when the rear deck of a home owned by the defendant and rented to several of the plaintiffs disconnected from the home and fell to the ground. Ultimately, the court concluded that the landlord may not be held liable for the plaintiffs’ injuries because there was insufficient evidence showing that the landlord knew the deck may have been in need of repair. As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiffs’ case was dismissed.

Wood DeckThe Facts of the Case

The landlord rented a home to several of the plaintiffs. Back when the landlord purchased the home in 1988, he hired an independent contractor to rebuild the home’s rear deck. In 2010, the landlord leased the home to several of the plaintiffs. At around the time when the plaintiffs took possession, the landlord visited the home, repaired a few boards on the rear deck, and inspected the deck for any visible defects. The landlord did not notice anything in need of structural repair.

A year after the plaintiffs moved in, they were hosting a barbecue when the rear deck pulled away from the home. The portion of the deck nearest to the home fell to the ground, injuring several of the people on the deck. A personal injury lawsuit was filed against the landlord, claiming that he was negligent in maintaining the deck.

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Earlier this month in Michigan, one boy was killed and 14 others hospitalized after they were all exposed to what was believed to be carbon monoxide while at a hotel’s indoor swimming pool. According to a local news source covering the tragedy, many of the injured guests were found unconscious in the pool area, which evidently did not have a carbon monoxide detector.

Smoke DetectorResponding authorities took a sample of the air in the indoor pool area and found that there were 800 parts per million of carbon monoxide. The standard for one-hour exposure is just 35 parts per million.

Authorities investigating the accident told reporters that the hotel was not technically required to have a carbon monoxide detector installed. Michigan law requires all new buildings built before December 1, 2009 to have carbon monoxide detectors installed before they are opened to the public. However, older buildings like the hotel were given until April 20 of this year to comply with the requirements.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a dog bite case requiring the court to determine if the lower court was proper to dismiss the case based on a lack of evidence of the defendant’s knowledge that the dog that bit the plaintiff was dangerous. Ultimately, the court determined that the lower court should not have dismissed the case because there was sufficient evidence to show that the dog’s owners may have had knowledge of the dog’s aggressive and dangerous nature.

Sleeping DogThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were neighbors with the defendants and would routinely visit over at each other’s homes. About a week prior to the incident giving rise to this case, the defendants’ son moved back into their home, and they allowed him to bring his dog, Rocks. During Rocks’ first week with the defendants, he snapped at one of the defendants once while she was feeding him. Rocks also snapped once at the plaintiff’s husband while he was over visiting the defendants.

A few days later, the plaintiff came to visit the defendants. She entered through the backyard gate and saw the defendants’ son had Rocks on a leash. The plaintiff approached Rocks and extended her arm gently, and Rocks lunged at her. Rocks latched onto the plaintiff’s arm. The plaintiff attempted to run away, but Rocks then latched onto her leg. Eventually, the plaintiff was able to get away, but she sustained serious injuries as a result of the attack.

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An axiomatic law of appellate procedure is that an appellate court can only rule on an issue on which the trial court had the opportunity to rule below. Thus, any argument that a party fails to make during a trial will considered to be waived for the purpose of appellate review. This rule is very important for personal injury plaintiffs to keep in mind, since it means that a thorough investigation must be conducted and the case properly prepared prior to trial to ensure that all available evidence is gathered and effectively presented to the court.

Baseball DiamondA recent opinion in a slip-and-fall case illustrates how a plaintiff’s failure to adequately gather all of the evidence and present it to the trial court prevented that party from using the evidence on appeal.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young boy who was injured while playing a game of baseball in a park that was owned by the defendant city. At the pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the city argued that it was entitled to immunity under the state’s recreational use statute. The plaintiffs issued a very broad objection to the applicability of the recreational use statute but did not offer any argument as to why the application of the statute was not appropriate. The judge granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiffs appealed.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a woman who was not in either car at the time of the accident, but was struck by one of the cars involved in the accident while she was standing on the corner. The court had to decide if the plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial against both drivers, or only against the driver who ran the red light, causing the accident. In the end, the court held that because conflicting evidence existed about whether both drivers may be at fault, the case should proceed to trial against both defendants.

Pedestrian SignThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff worked as a crossing guard for a local school. It was the Friday of the first week of school, and she was scheduled to end her shift in a few minutes when she glanced up the street and noticed a car speeding towards her. She noticed the car was crossing into the lane of opposing traffic passing other vehicles. As the car approached the intersection where the plaintiff was standing, it ran a red stoplight.

At the time the first car ran the red light, a pick-up truck entered the intersection with a green light. There was conflicting testimony as to whether the intersection was clear at the time the pick-up truck entered the intersection. The plaintiff said that it was not clear; however, the driver of the pick-up and several eyewitnesses claimed that it was clear. Regardless, once the pick-up entered the intersection, it was struck by the car that had run the red stoplight. The force from the collision sent the pick-up truck right into the plaintiff, who was thrown against a wall nearby. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries, and filed a personal injury lawsuit against both drivers.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Indiana issued a written opinion in a personal injury case brought by a woman who was injured when another student jump-kicked the bag she had volunteered to hold during karate practice. Ultimately, the court determined that, because jump kicks are an ordinary within the sport of karate, the defendant did not breach the duty he owed to the plaintiff.

Jump KickThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a black-belt at a karate studio. During a practice session, she volunteered to hold the bag during a drill called “kick the bag.” She stood behind the bag and placed one foot in front of the other to brace herself, as she had done many times in the past. The drill consisted of sprinting towards the bag, and then kicking the bag with one foot, keeping the other foot on the ground.

The defendant was newer to the practice of karate, and had only obtained his green belt. When it was the defendant’s turn, he ran towards the bag but rather than keep one foot on the floor, both feet left the ground. The force from the defendant’s “jump kick” was so great that it knocked the plaintiff down, resulting in her injuring her knee.

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