Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued a written opinion in an Indiana slip-and-fall case involving a woman’s fall at a pharmacy chain. The case required the court to determine if a lower court was proper in granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant. Finding that the plaintiff failed to establish that the defendant had knowledge of the hazard that caused her fall, the court affirmed judgment in the defendant’s favor.

Spilled LiquidThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was visiting a Walgreen’s pharmacy when she slipped and fell on what she believed to be a puddle of water. However, witness accounts differed regarding whether there was water on the floor after the plaintiff’s fall. Several store employees claimed that no water was present. However, the plaintiff and her friend testified that there was a puddle of water present. The plaintiff also told responding paramedics that she had slipped on a puddle of water.

At trial, the court determined that the plaintiff’s statement to paramedics was inadmissible hearsay, precluding it from consideration. Thus, the court then held that the plaintiff failed to make out her case against the defendant. The plaintiff appealed.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit illustrating an issue that may have an impact on some Indiana premises liability cases involving children who have been injured while in the company of their parents. The case presented the court with an opportunity to discuss how a parent’s presence can act to reduce the duty a business owner has to protect minor children who accompany their parents.

Cuppa JoeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a young boy who was seriously injured while he was playing on the metal poles used to create the line at a nationwide coffee chain. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the boy was with his family, which included both his parents and his brother. After the family ordered their food and drinks, they used the restroom and then began to leave the store.

On the way out of the store, the parents were in the lead with the children in tow. However, as the parents were about to leave the store, they heard their son screaming. They turned around to find that one of the metal poles used to connect a series of chains that were used to create a line leading up to the register had fallen on their son.

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As a general rule, landowners have a duty to ensure that their property is safe for those whom they invite onto their land. An invitation may be an explicit one, such as an invitation to join a neighbor for dinner, or it may be implicit given the circumstances, such as a customer who visits a business. In either case, a duty arises on the part of the property owner.

WarehouseThe extent of the duty owed to a visitor depends largely on the relationship between the two parties and the purpose of the visit. For example, a business invitee, i.e., a customer, is owed the highest duty. When a landowner fails to take the necessary precautions to ensure their property is safe, they may be held liable through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit.

Of course, not all injuries occurring on another party’s property will result in the landowner being liable for the injuries. As a recent case illustrates, if a court determines that the hazard causing the plaintiff’s fall was “open and obvious,” the landowner does not owe the visitor a duty to warn them of the hazard.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that clearly illustrates an issue that frequently arises in Indiana premises liability cases. The case involved a handyman who was seriously injured while moving a piece of glass while working at the defendant’s home. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff, who admitted to being aware of the risks involved with moving a sheet of glass, should be entitled to recover compensation for his injuries.

Broken GlassThe Facts of the Case

The defendant, a wheelchair-bound homeowner, hired the plaintiff to put in a bathroom in the defendant’s basement. Part of the job required the plaintiff to remove a large mirror that was glued to the basement’s wooden frame.

The plaintiff and the defendant decided that they would use a crowbar to remove the three wooden boards from the back of the glass. The first board was removed without incident. However, when the plaintiff removed the second board, the glass broke, leaving a sharp shard attached to the board. The plaintiff carried the board up to the front of the house and tossed it into a garbage can. However, somehow the glass that was attached to the wood sliced the plaintiff’s wrist, causing him serious and permanent injuries.

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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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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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Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals all have a duty to provide a certain level of care to their patients. While not every adverse patient event will be a basis for a lawsuit, when someone is injured due to negligently provided medical care, they may be able to recover compensation for their injuries through an Indiana medical malpractice lawsuit.

Examination TableThese cases are unique in that they are subject to additional requirements over and above other Indiana personal injury lawsuits. For example, Indiana Code section 34-18-8-4 states that an Indiana medical malpractice plaintiff must first file a complaint with a medical review board prior to filing the lawsuit in a court of law.

Once the complaint is filed, a panel of four (consisting of one qualified attorney who practices in that area of the law and three qualified health care providers) will review the claim and determine whether it has merit. If the claim is determined to have merit, the plaintiff will be allowed to file a lawsuit, and the results of the claim will be admissible at trial. However, the results will not necessarily dictate the outcome of the case, since the defendant will also be able to present a defense if there is one.

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Indiana landowners have a duty to make sure that their property is safe for the people whom they allow to enter and remain on their property. When a landowner fails to take adequate precautions to ensure a safe area, the injured party can generally seek compensation for their injuries through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit.

Rope SwingIndiana’s recreational use statute, however, limits a landowner’s liability in some situations. Indiana Code, Title 14, Article 22, Chapter 10, Section 14-22-10-2-5 outlines the state’s recreational use statute. Essentially, a landowner who allows others to use his property at no cost for recreational purposes cannot be held liable for any injuries that are caused as a result of the use of their land. Of course, this does not apply if the landowner acts maliciously or willfully causes an injury to someone using their land. A recent case illustrates how a state’s recreational use statute prevented the family of a young boy from recovering compensation for their son’s injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the father of a boy who was injured while playing on a rope swing adjacent to a government-owned lake. The child was enjoying the rope swing with several friends, and they would take turns swinging from a nearby tree into the water. As the person swinging was in the air, the other children would try to slap his feet before he splashed into the water. When the plaintiff’s friend was swinging, the plaintiff attempted to slap his friend’s feet. However, the two boys collided, resulting in the plaintiff being seriously injured.

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