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When a person slips, and falls on another’s property in Indiana, the fall victim may be able to collect damages for the injuries they sustained. Indiana premises liability law establishes when a property owner is responsible for an accident victim’s injuries. Thus, it is important that slip and fall victims understand the state’s statute of limitations, duties, defenses, and damages before filing a lawsuit against a negligent property owner.

Under Indiana Code section 34-11-2-4, personal injury complainants must comply with the state’s two-year deadline. The statute of limitations applies to all negligence, intentional tort, and defamation lawsuits in Indiana. There are certain exceptions to the two-year deadline, such as if the injured party was under 18 years old at the time of the accident or they are mentally incapacitated. An exception may also apply if the culpable party leaves the state or attempts to conceal their identity.

Indiana slip and fall victims must be able to establish that the property owner owes the plaintiff a duty to exercise reasonable care from foreseeable hazards on the property. However, it is essential to note that the law does not require property owners to ensure a person’s safety while they are on the property. Typically, a property owner will be liable if they had knowledge of the dangerous condition, or if it was present for enough time that the owner should have discovered the hazard and prevented the injury. Indiana property owners must inspect and keep their property in a reasonably safe condition.

Indiana arbitration agreements are commonplace, and many people agree to the terms without fully understanding what arbitration entails. Arbitration is an out-of-court method to resolve disputes among parties. It is designed to cut costs and allow the parties to reach an agreement without a trial. However, arbitration clauses generally favor the businesses that include them in their contracts. And it is important to know that there are instances where an arbitration agreement is not valid, or arbitration is not appropriate.

For example, in a recent opinion, a state appellate court addressed issues that commonly arise in Indiana nursing home lawsuits where a defendant is trying to compel arbitration. According to the court’s opinion, a nursing facility attempted to compel arbitration after a plaintiff asserted claims of negligence, willful misconduct, elder abuse, and wrongful death against the facility. The plaintiff’s mother was suffering from various ailments and required nursing home care. When the woman entered the facility, the plaintiff signed but did not date an arbitration agreement. Sometime after her admittance, the woman was transferred to a hospital where doctors discovered, among other things, that her leg required amputation. Sadly, the woman died shortly after. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit claiming that the nursing home withheld care, and recklessly disregarded her mother’s health and safety. The nursing home tried to compel arbitration based on the admittance contract.

The defendant argued that arbitration was appropriate because a facility representative witnessed the mother provide the daughter with express authority to sign the agreement on her behalf. The daughter countered that the facility fabricated the circumstances surrounding the execution of the contract. She explained that her mother did not provide her with authorization to sign the agreement on her behalf, and she was not in the room during admittance. Ultimately, the court concluded that the agreement was both procedurally invalid and substantively unconscionable.

Earlier this month, a 26-year-old man was killed in a tragic car accident in Indiana County. According to a local news report covering the accident, the crash occurred around 3:00 a.m. at the intersection of Ofman and Shellbark Road in West Wheatfield Township. The driver, who is presumed to have been driving too fast, failed to stop at an intersection and then drove into a wooded area. The car then hit several trees and rocks, and as a result, the car’s passenger was thrown through the windshield, and the car landed on him. Police believe that the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol, adding an extra layer of tragedy to the accident.

Many car accidents are unavoidable, but in some situations, the driver is actually able to avoid certain risk factors that contribute to the accident, including intoxicated driving. Unfortunately, however, intoxicated driving remains a leading cause of Indiana car accidents. Most often, these cases involve alcohol intoxication, although the law does not distinguish between alcohol intoxication and intoxication from other substances. No matter what form, intoxicated driving puts the driver, the passengers, and others on the road at risk.

Driving while intoxicated is against the law, and when a fatal accident occurs as a result of an intoxicated driver, criminal charges are always possible. These charges may come with fines or jail time for the driver, depending on the nature of the crash and the injuries. However, these criminal charges do little to help the accident victim’s family deal with the expenses they occurred, or the tragic loss they suffered as a result of the accident.

Earlier this month, a husband and wife were killed in a fatal Indiana dump truck accident involving a total of eleven vehicles. According to a recent news report covering the tragic accident, the crash occurred near the intersection of U.S. 36 and South County Road 625 East, at around 3:30 in the afternoon.

Evidently, the dump truck rear-ended an SUV that was stopped in traffic. After the initial collision, the dump truck drifted across the center median and collided with a minivan head-on. The driver and passenger of the minivan were both killed in the accident. In all, a total of eleven vehicles were involved in the accident, including a school bus. Thankfully, no children were on board at the time. An additional victim in one of the other cars suffered serious injuries, including spinal cord injuries and fractures to her femur, pelvis, and spine.

After police arrived on the scene, they conducted a field sobriety test on the driver of the dump truck, which he failed. The driver then admitted to police that he had snorted heroin earlier in the day. The driver was arrested and charged with several serious crimes, including reckless homicide and causing death operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Police officers also noted that there was a white powdery substance lining the inside of the driver’s nostrils, which they believe to have been heroin.

Understanding the limitations of Indiana personal injury law is essential. A lack of understanding can result in filing a claim that is a waste of time and money. A state appellate court recently dismissed a personal injury case that the court found was filed two years too late. According to the court’s opinion, in June 2016, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint for damages that he claimed he sustained on about June 6, 2012.

Evidently, the plaintiff was climbing an attic ladder in a residential home in order to repair a leak when the ladder collapsed. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant construction company that built and sold the home and was negligent in failing to ensure that the ladder was secure and properly installed. The defendant argued that the suit was barred by the applicable ten-year statute of repose. Similar to statutes of limitations, statutes of repose limit the time during which a claim can be filed. Yet, unlike statutes of limitations, statutes of repose are construed more strictly to provide a finite period of time during which the claim must be filed.

The defendant claimed that in July 2003, it entered into an agreement with the home’s original owners, agreeing to build and sell the home to the owners. The construction was completed around April 30, 2004, and the owners took possession of the home on May 7, 2004. The plaintiff argued that the claim was not founded on the “construction of an improvement to real property.”

Nursing homes have been under fire lately for the poor level of care they provide to residents. Indeed, by some estimates, one in ten nursing home residents suffer some type of abuse or neglect. In theory, the legal system allows for the victims of Indiana nursing home abuse and neglect to sue the offending nursing homes. However, many Indiana residents are not able to do so because they signed arbitration agreements.

An arbitration agreement is a type of contract by which the parties agree not to file a case in court if a conflict within the scope of the agreement arises. Typically, nursing homes present residents with these agreements at the time of admission. While Indiana skilled care facilities will not necessarily force a resident to sign the agreement, it is not often apparent to the resident that they can decline to sign. If valid and enforceable, an arbitration agreement can prevent a nursing home resident from filing a case in court, forcing them to resolve the matter through the arbitration process.

The enforceability of arbitration contracts is currently a hot topic, and the subject of many court opinions. A recent case illustrates how courts analyze and give effect to arbitration agreements. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim against the defendant nursing home after his father died while in the home’s care. Before the plaintiff’s father was admitted into the home, he signed an arbitration agreement. The agreement contained a “delegation provision” under which the specific arbitrator would determine whether any claim fell within the scope of the arbitration clause.

 

 

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Parr Richey is pleased to announce that attorneys Paul Kruse and Tony Patterson have been named to the 2020 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America for their work in Personal Injury Litigation.

Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer review publication in the legal profession. Best Lawyers uses a transparent peer review methodology to determine leading lawyers in their profession. The process is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical region and legal practice areas.

 

Recently, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on a case stemming from an Indiana motorcycle accident. The two plaintiffs were embarking on a cross-country trip on their Harley-Davidson motorcycle. While going through Nebraska, the couples’ bike tire sustained a puncture and deflated. The quick deflation resulted in the husband losing control of the motorcycle and crashing into a median. The husband slid across the highway, and his wife was thrown off the bike. Unfortunately, although both people were wearing helmets, they sustained severe injuries, including traumatic brain injuries.

A few months after the accident, the couple received a recall notice for their helmets. The couple filed a products liability lawsuit against the companies that sold them their helmets, the motorcycle manufacturer, and several other entities. The couple alleged that that the helmets and tires had design and manufacturing defects. The couple did not provide any experts for their helmet claim, and the district court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants. However, the plaintiffs did provide expert testimony for their defective tire claim. The tire defendants filed motions to exclude the plaintiffs’ expert testimony based on a lack of reliability under the Federal Rules of Evidence. The plaintiffs challenged this ruling; however, the appeals court ultimately affirmed the lower courts finding.

Indiana follows the Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and the Daubert standard. Under Daubert, a trial judge is responsible for ensuring that evidence is “reliable and relevant.” Typically, courts assess the reliability prong on a case-by-case basis; however, there are certain factors that courts analyze. Some general things that courts look to are whether the expert’s theory has been tested and peer-reviewed. Further, the court will examine whether the method they are putting forth has general acceptance in the relevant community.

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PARR RICHEY FRANDSEN PATTERSON KRUSE LLP is proud to announce that Tony Patterson has been recognized by Best Lawyers as its honoree for personal injury “Lawyer of the Year” in the Indianapolis metropolitan area which spans most of central Indiana including Indianapolis and the surrounding counties. This recognition is given to the lawyer receiving the highest overall peer ranking in his or her particular practice area. Only one lawyer in each practice and metropolitan area is honored with this award.

Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer review publication in the legal profession. In addition to being named “Lawyer of the Year” for 2020, Mr. Patterson has been listed in Best Lawyers for the past twelve years for his work in Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Litigation and he, along with fellow Best Lawyer’s recipient Paul Kruse, were featured on the cover story of the 2018 edition of Indiana’s Best Lawyers. PARR RICHEY FRANDSEN PATTERSON KRUSE LLP has also been listed under Best Law Firms since 2010 with a Tier 1 ranking for its work in representing personal injury victims. The firm represents accident victims throughout Indiana and the Midwest and has two Indiana offices, one in downtown Indianapolis and one in Lebanon, Indiana and can be found at www.parrinjury.com.

Indiana’s Supreme Court recently decided that a high school could not be held liable for failing to supervise a student after the student left without permission. The 16-year-old student left the school grounds of an Indianapolis high school without permission and was subsequently shot and killed. His estate filed a lawsuit against the school claiming that it was negligent in failing to monitor and supervise the student. The school argued the student was contributorily negligent and thus was not entitled to compensation from the school. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

Under Indiana’s Comparative Fault Act, if a claimant is partially at fault for his injuries, he can still recover damages, although the award will be reduced by the percentage the claimant is found to be at fault. However, the Comparative Fault Act does not apply in cases against governmental entities. In cases against governmental entities, Indiana’s contributory negligence doctrine applies. Under the contributory negligence doctrine, a plaintiff cannot recover if the plaintiff is negligent and the negligence is even slightly the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

The court explained that absent special circumstances, children over the age of 14 are able to exercise reasonable care that an ordinary person would exercise in similar circumstances. It also stated that a plaintiff is contributorily negligence if the plaintiff’s actions fell below the standard necessary for his own protection and safety.