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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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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing the potential repercussions for committing fraud on the court. The case is instructive to Indiana car accident plaintiffs in showing the importance of selecting a reputable and honest attorney, as well as the importance of being truthful in all pleadings and testimony before the court.

LuggageThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff hired a car company to take her to the dock where she was planning on boarding a ship for a cruise. Once the plaintiff arrived, she was unloading her luggage from the rear of the vehicle when it suddenly began to reverse. The vehicle pinned the plaintiff underneath the rear axle and caused serious injuries. The plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for 10 days and suffered a broken leg.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the car company, arguing that the driver’s negligence resulted in her being run over and sustaining a broken leg. During pre-trial discovery, the plaintiff completed written interrogatories indicating that she had a permanent limp, that she uses a cane to walk, and that she cannot carry large objects due to her injuries.

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Understanding the role of an expert witness in a personal injury lawsuit is critical to the success of many Indiana premises liability lawsuits. Generally speaking, an expert witness is used when the issues involved in the case are complex, scientific, or otherwise beyond the scope of an average juror’s common experiences.

Pile of TiresSimilarly, most medical malpractice cases require the testimony of an expert witness, and some car accident cases use the testimony of an accident reconstructionist. A recent case illustrates a slip-and-fall plaintiff’s successful use of an expert witness to survive a summary judgment challenge by the defense.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff took her trailer to the defendant tire shop for repairs. Upon arrival, the plaintiff entered the shop through the side entrance, approached the employee at the desk, and arranged for the repairs to be completed. The plaintiff then safely left the same way she had entered.

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After an Indiana car accident, there is a long way to recovery. First, an accident victim must deal with the physical and emotional toll that the accident takes. Once the body and mind have sufficiently recovered, there are usually still unsettled matters such as medical expenses, lost wages, and the loss of enjoyment of life that accompanies being an accident victim.

StethoscopeIn many cases, insurance companies provide accident victims compensation for their injuries. However, insurance companies are operated on a for-profit model and will too often deny the claims of accident victims or offer significantly less compensation to them than an accident victim needs or deserves. A recent case illustrates one accident victim’s difficulties in dealing with an insurance company after a car accident.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident. The other driver was insured by the defendant insurance company. The insurance company acknowledged that their customer was at fault in causing the accident and provided advance payment of the plaintiff’s medical expenses for a period of about six months.

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Being involved in an Indiana car accident is a traumatic experience. Of course, an accident victim must first deal with the physical injuries and emotional stress in the aftermath of the accident. After the injuries heal, however, there are often unresolved financial issues, including the payment of medical bills, how to pay for future medical care, the money lost from workdays missed, and the pain and suffering endured throughout the process.

ContractAnyone involved in a car accident can file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party, seeking to recover compensation for their injuries. However, in some cases, the at-fault motorist does not have insurance or has low policy limits, such that an accident victim’s injuries are not fully covered. In these situations, an accident victim may file a claim with their own insurance policy, under the uninsured/underinsured motorist provision.

One may think that filing a claim with their own insurance company is a simple process; however, that is not always the case. Insurance companies are for-profit corporations that are always keeping their bottom line in mind. Thus, many insurance companies view incoming claims with an eye toward how the claim can be denied. Indeed, a recent case illustrates how one plaintiff’s innocent error caused her to forfeit any underinsured motorist claim under her own policy.

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