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In June, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Indiana car accident case discussing whether an expert witness’s disciplinary history is admissible in a personal injury trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that such an account is admissible, but that in this case, specific evidentiary rules prevented the admission of the reasons for the disciplinary action.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was sitting in her vehicle at a stop sign when the defendant rear-ended her. The plaintiff went to the hospital, and was released that evening with a neck brace and a prescription for pain medication. Later, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

In support of her case, the plaintiff planned on presenting evidence from a treating physician who was going to be a medical expert at trial. The defendant asked the expert whether he was ever subject to any disciplinary proceedings, to which the expert responded affirmatively. However, the expert would not get into any details. Before trial, the defendant asked the court to compel the expert to disclose the reasons for the disciplinary action taken against him. The court denied the defendant’s request, holding that the fact that the expert was subject to prior disciplinary proceedings was not relevant because, at the time of trial, the expert’s medical license was valid. The jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed.

Under Indiana tort law, landowners have an obligation to ensure that their property is safe for the people they host, either as social guests or business invitees. In general, a property owner must exercise reasonable care when maintaining their property to discover and eliminate any hazards. If a hazard cannot be remedied, a landowner should warn guests of the hazard’s existence.

Thus far, the focus of the discussion has been on the knowledge and actions of the landowner. However, Indiana premises liability cases also consider the knowledge and conduct of the victim. For example, if a hazard is open and obvious, the law generally holds that a plaintiff should recognize such dangers and use necessary caution. In these cases, a landowner may not be liable for a plaintiff’s injuries if the jury determines that most of the fault is attributable to the plaintiff. However, it is typically not a court’s job to determine whether a plaintiff was negligent; that task belongs to the jury. A recent case illustrates the importance of this distinction.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she tripped and fell over a broken sidewalk at her condo complex. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff had lived in the complex for ten years, and regularly crossed the broken sidewalk without incident. She admitted that she knew there were safer paths to take, and that she knew about the broken sidewalk.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Indiana product liability case discussing under what circumstances the manufacturer of a component part can be held liable for its failure to include a necessary safety feature. The case is interesting because it resolves a previously unanswered question under the Indiana Product Liability Act (IPLA).

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s husband was killed when a semi-truck backed up over him. The defendant manufactured the “glider kit” which, in the court’s words, “becomes an operable over-the-road semi-truck after a purchaser installs an engine, transmission, and exhaust system.” The glider kit has a 40-foot blind spot behind the vehicle. The defendant allows buyers to purchase additional safety features, such as a rear-view window, a backup alarm, a backup camera, or backup flashers. None of those features were installed on the unit that ran over the plaintiff’s husband.

The plaintiff filed an Indiana product liability claim against the defendant, claiming that the glider kit suffered from a defective design. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that it had no duty to install additional safety features. The defendant claimed that it did not manufacturer the completed semi-truck, and that the glider kit was not unreasonably dangerous or defective when it left the defendant’s control and that it was up to the purchaser to ensure that the final vehicle was safe for its intended use.

A waiver of liability, also called a liability release waiver, is a legal document that purports to release a party of liability in the event another party is injured. Waivers of liability are very common in Indiana, and whether most people realize it, chances are they have signed one at some point.

Companies use release waivers to limit or eliminate any legal exposure through an Indiana personal injury lawsuit. Common situations where release waivers are used include:

  • Sending a child on a field trip;

Parents assume that the products they purchase for their children are safe. However, that is not always the case. Too often, manufacturers rush products to market without having conducted the necessary safety testing. When it comes to products marketed toward children, any risk is unacceptable. Indiana parents should know that manufacturers can be held liable for any injuries caused by their product through an Indiana product liability lawsuit.

On April 12, 2019, Fisher-Price issued a recall of its popular infant sleeper, the Rock ‘n Play. The Rock n’ Play is a compact, foldable sleeper that is unique in that it allows infants to lie at a 30-degree angle while sleeping. The company marketed the product to parents hoping to get their babies to sleep longer, which is a significant concern for many parents of young children. Since Fisher-Price released the product in 2009, it is estimated that it has sold over 4.7 million units.

According to a recent article by the Washington Post, the Rock ‘n Play was manufactured and released to market with a complete dearth of clinical research into the product’s safety. The company appears to have only consulted with a single doctor in the creation of the product, a doctor whose medical license was later revoked. It was not until eight years later that Fisher-Price hired a pediatrician to look into the safety of the Rock ‘n Play.

Dangerous roads are one of the most often overlooked causes of Indiana car accidents. In part, road design and maintenance may be overlooked because it can be difficult to successfully pursue an Indiana personal injury claim based on the dangerous design or negligent maintenance of a road. However, the possibility of encountering an obstacle should not discourage an accident victim from discussing their case with an attorney.

There are numerous ways in which a road might be dangerous. The most common defects found on Indiana roads are surface defects and planning defects. Surface defects include cracking pavement, potholes, and eroded shoulders. These are often results of poorly maintained roads. Planning defects have to do with the layout of the road itself. Common examples of planning defects are blind corners, confusing intersections, and poorly lit roads. Under Indiana law, it is possible for an accident victim to recover based on either surface defects or planning defects. However, issues of governmental immunity may be a hurdle that accident victims must overcome. A recent case discusses governmental immunity in the context of a car accident that was allegedly caused by a defectively designed road.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was heading southbound on a motorcycle when a vehicle attempted to make a left turn in front of him. The plaintiff was unable to avoid the collision and crashed into the passenger-side door of the motorist’s vehicle. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the state government, arguing that the intersection was dangerous and that the government failed to warn motorists of the dangerous intersection.

In May of 2019, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in an Indiana premises liability case discussing whether the jury should have been presented with the evidence that the plaintiff was not wearing a hard hat when he was injured. Finding that Indiana’s Comparative Fault Act precluded the admission of a plaintiff’s failure to wear safety equipment unless such a failure was related to the cause of his injury, the court reversed the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant and ordered a new trial.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff agreed to help his friend, the defendant, cut down trees on his property. The two agreed the plaintiff would operate the chain saw, and the defendant would keep an eye out for any hazards. While the plaintiff was cutting down a tree, a dead branch fell onto the plaintiff’s head, resulting in near-fatal injuries. The plaintiff was not wearing a hardhat.

At trial, the defendant presented evidence to the jury that the plaintiff did not wear a hardhat and thus assumed the risk of any injury that befell him. The defendant explicitly told the court that he was not arguing that the plaintiff’s injuries would have been less serious if he was wearing a hardhat; the sole focus of the defendant’s argument was that the plaintiff was negligent himself, and should not be permitted to recover for his injuries. The court concluded that the evidence could be used “to show assumption of risk, comparative fault, and whether [the plaintiff] acted as a reasonably careful person.” The jury ultimately found that the plaintiff was 51% at fault and the defendant 49% at fault. Under the Indiana Comparative Fault Act, the plaintiff recovered nothing. The plaintiff appealed.

When someone is injured due to the alleged negligence of another party, the injury victim can pursue a claim for compensation against the parties they believe to be at fault for their injuries. These cases all fall under the umbrella of Indiana personal injury cases. However, there are several different types of personal injury cases, and courts apply slightly different legal standards according to the type of claim that is brought. A recent state appellate decision illustrates the importance of the legal standard that is applied by the court.

The case arose when the plaintiff, who was a guest at the defendant’s property, was injured in a golf cart accident. The defendant was driving the cart at the time of the accident. The plaintiff sued the defendant, claiming that the defendant acted negligently by operating the golf cart in an unsafe manner. The plaintiff’s claim made no mention of a premises liability theory, and did not mention the defendant’s status as the owner of the property where the accident occurred.

The defendant claimed that he did not violate a duty of care that he owed to the plaintiff. The defendant characterized the plaintiff’s claim as one of premises liability, arguing that the plaintiff was a licensee on his property, and thus he only had a duty “to refrain from willfully, wantonly, knowingly, or intentionally injuring her.”

In March 2019, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether the defendant motorist was entitled to summary judgment based on the evidence presented. The case raises an interesting issue that frequently comes up in Indiana car accident cases in which each party offers a very different version of the events leading up to the accident.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was jogging down a road when he was approached from behind by the defendant motorist. The defendant was traveling at approximately 35 miles per hour. As the defendant got close to the plaintiff, he crossed the double-yellow line to try and safely pass the plaintiff. However, as the defendant was re-entering his lane, he crashed into the plaintiff, causing the plaintiff to break his leg. When police officers arrived on the scene, the plaintiff told them that the defendant ran a red light before striking him. The defendant denied the allegation, claiming that he had a green light. The police officer initially cited the plaintiff for darting out into traffic, but that citation was later dismissed.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment in his favor, arguing that the plaintiff was the one who jumped out into traffic, striking his vehicle. The court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, allowing the plaintiff’s case to proceed towards trial. The defendant appealed.

As we frequently discuss in this blog, Indiana landowners owe a duty of care to those whom they allow to enter their property. When a landowner fails to live up to this duty, they may be liable for any injuries caused on their property through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit. The extent of any duty that is owed to a guest depends primarily on the reason for the guest’s visit. Thus, determining the status of a visitor is the first step in an Indiana premises liability lawsuit.

As a general matter, customers of a business or others who are on a landowner’s property for commercial purposes are owed a greater duty than social guests who are invited upon the premises. Finally, trespassers – or those who enter a property without the owner’s permission – are owed the least significant duty. Generally, a landowner must only refrain from willfully causing injuries to trespassers. However, under the state’s recreational use statute, there are other situations in which a landowner may not be liable for a guest’s injuries.

The Indiana recreational use statute limits a landowner’s liability when the land has been made available for public recreational use. This includes activities such as swimming, camping, hiking, or sightseeing. There are also limitations on a landowner’s liability if they allow others to hunt or fish on their property. To qualify for the statute’s protections, however, the landowner cannot charge the visitor a fee for the use of their property.