Earlier this month, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case involving a woman who broke her leg while crossing a street. In the case, City of Beech Grove v. Beloat, the court determined that the city was not entitled to governmental immunity because the act of maintaining the road was not “discretionary,” as defined by the Indiana Tort Claims Act.
The plaintiff was walking from her home in the City of Beech Grove to the library, when she briefly stepped out of the crosswalk to avoid a parked car. As she did so, she heard a snap and realized that her foot was caught in a hole in the pavement. She remained there until two bystanders helped her out. When she was taken to the hospital a short time later, it was discovered that she had suffered a broken leg. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city.
In response, the city claimed that it was entitled to immunity from the lawsuit based on the Indiana Tort Claims Act, which grants immunity to the government and government employees when they are performing a discretionary function. The trial court denied the city’s motion to dismiss the case on this ground, and the city appealed.
The High Court’s Ruling
The Indiana Supreme Court acknowledged that this was a close call, but it ultimately held that the lower court got it right, and the city was not entitled to immunity. The court explained that the city would not need to go as far as to show that it knew of the specific hole and decided not to fill it, but more was necessary than what was shown in this case to prove that the alleged act or omission was discretionary in nature.
Discretionary Versus Ministerial Actions
Governmental immunity is granted only for discretionary actions. Those actions that are considered “ministerial” are outside the scope of governmental immunity, and plaintiffs like the one in the case discussed above may be entitled to monetary compensation from the government for their negligence. The difference between ministerial and discretionary functions can be a blurry line, and this is often where the bulk of litigation takes place in a premises liability case against a government.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in an Indiana slip-and-fall accident, even if it occurred on government land, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. These cases often involve issues of governmental or recreational use immunity, so a dedicated attorney experienced in these matters should be consulted prior to filing your case. Call 888-765-7411 to set up a free consultation with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
Court Upholds Jury’s Zero-Dollar Verdict in Personal Injury Case, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, March 9, 2016
Recent Appellate Court Opinion Finds in Favor of Plaintiff in Road Rage Case, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, April 1, 2016