Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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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Before an Indiana premises liability lawsuit reaches trial, the plaintiff’s case will likely be challenged by the defendant through a process called summary judgment. Summary judgment is a procedural mechanism by which a court can summarily rule in one party’s favor when there are no factual disputes in the case, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Fallen TreeIn order to survive a defense motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff must establish that there is a factual dispute that requires a fact-finder to make the ultimate determination. This likely means presenting evidence that contests some assertion made by the defense. For example, evidence showing that a traffic light was green when the defendant claims it was red may give rise to a factual dispute that needs resolution. Alternatively, if no factual dispute is present, a motion for summary judgment may be defeated by showing that the defendant is not entitled to judgment under the applicable law. A recent personal injury case illustrates how courts apply the summary judgment standard.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a tenant in the defendant’s apartment complex. During a storm, a tree on an adjacent piece of property fell onto the apartment building where the plaintiff lived. The plaintiff attempted to get the defendant to remove the tree, but the defendant was not responsive to the plaintiff’s request. Eventually, the plaintiff contacted a fellow resident of the complex whom she knew to help the defendant out with maintenance around the complex.

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All Indiana personal injury cases must be filed within a certain amount of time, or the case will be dismissed and the plaintiff will be without any means of recourse. In Indiana, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is two years from the date of the injury. However, this time period can be extended in certain situations.

Cleaned-Out GarageEarlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit raising the question of which of two potentially applicable statutes of limitations applied to the plaintiff’s case. The case goes to show the lengths to which defendants will go to get a case dismissed when there is a potential statute of limitations defense.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young boy who was injured after a wall collapsed on him while he was living at a home owned by the defendant and rented to the boy’s parents. After their son’s injury, the plaintiffs filed a personal injury case against the defendant. However, while that case was pending, the plaintiffs’ son turned 18. At that point, the plaintiffs agreed to withdraw their case against the defendant so that their son could proceed on his own behalf.

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When someone intends on filing an Indiana wrongful death lawsuit, a thorough investigation must be conducted to determine all of the proper parties that should be named in the lawsuit. In situations in which a government entity is discovered to be one of the potential defendants, Indiana law requires that certain additional steps be taken when naming that entity as a defendant.

RollercoasterUnder the Indiana Tort Claims Against Governmental Entities and Public Employees Act, plaintiffs intending on filing lawsuits filed against government entities must first provide notice of the claim to the government entity. This notice is due either 180 or 270 days after the incident. If a party fails to provide the government entity with notice of the claim and proceeds to file the claim, the court will dismiss the plaintiff’s case.

A recent wrongful death case illustrates the importance of conducting a thorough investigation.

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Once a judge or a jury renders a verdict in an Indiana personal injury case, that verdict is final unless one of the parties involved decides to file an appeal to a higher court. Importantly, Indiana appellate courts will not revisit factual determinations of a judge or jury. This means that issues of credibility are not appealable. However, legal claims of error, such as evidentiary issues, can be appealed if the issue is properly raised and preserved below.

Swimming PoolIndiana appellate courts receive thousands of appeals each year, and they employ a strict set of procedural rules to ensure that only the most diligent parties with meritorious claims of error are heard. One of the most commonly encountered rules of appellate procedure is the requirement that a claim of error must be raised at trial in order for an appellate court to consider the alleged error on appeal.

Due to this rule, a party’s failure to raise and preserve an issue at trial will almost certainly prevent that party from bringing the issue to the attention of an appellate court. A recent personal injury case involving a serious slip-and-fall accident illustrates how this rule affected one plaintiff’s ability to recover compensation for his injuries.

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Last month, a state court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a workplace accident that is of interest to those considering bringing an Indiana personal injury lawsuit, especially for incidents that occurred in the workplace. The case presented the court with the opportunity to decide if a company should be liable for injuries to an independent contractor that occurred when the independent contractor stepped in a puddle of hazardous chemicals. Ultimately, the court determined that the contractor was fully warned about the risks involved with working at the facility and that the company successfully discharged its duty to the contractor.

Chemical PlantWorkplace Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Claims

As a preliminary matter, it is important to understand the difference between personal injury cases occurring at a job site and workers’ compensation claims. Workers’ compensation claims are technically brought against an employer, and, when appropriate, they often are the sole remedy available to the injured employee. However, when an employee’s injury is due to the negligence of a third party, the employee may have an additional claim for compensation through an Indiana personal injury lawsuit against that third party.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was employed by an independent contractor that performed insulation work. The defendant employed the company for which the plaintiff worked to perform insulation work on chemical tanks. The defendant company required the independent contractors to complete specialized safety training prior to beginning work.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Alabama issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that was brought by an accident victim against a local city that owned and operated the park where the plaintiff’s injury occurred. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss recreational-use immunity and what a plaintiff must show to overcome this immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to establish a crucial element of her claim in that she did not show that the city had actual knowledge of the hazard that caused her fall.

FireworksThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was visiting a park owned and operated by the defendant city. The plaintiff arrived at the park on July 4, in the morning hours. After parking her vehicle, the plaintiff made her way around a set of vertical poles that established the parking area without any problem. However, hours later, when the plaintiff made her way back to her vehicle, she tripped and fell on a diagonal cross-bar that connected two of the vertical poles. Evidence presented to the court suggested that while the area was lit by overhead street lights, the general condition of the lighting was “poor.”

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city, claiming that the lack of lighting combined with the condition of the vertical poles created a dangerous hazard. In response to the lawsuit, the city had a maintenance supervisor testify that the city had no actual knowledge of the dangerous condition and that there had never been a similar accident reported nor any report of a dangerous condition.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a lawsuit that was brought by the parents of a young girl who was injured while playing on a zip-line at her school’s playground. The case required the court to determine if the zip-line constituted a “dangerous condition” under the state’s government immunity statute. Finding that it did not, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit against the school.

Zip LineThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s daughter was playing on a zip-line in her school playground when she fell to the ground, fracturing her wrist and arm. The parents filed a premises liability lawsuit, claiming that the school was negligent in placing the zip-line in the playground, where children could access it without the assistance of an adult.

Before the case reached trial, the school filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the case based on the school’s asserted government immunity. The state statute at issue provided that a government entity is entitled to immunity from any personal injury lawsuit unless an exception applies. One such exception is the recreational area waiver, which removes immunity when an injury was caused by a “dangerous condition” of any public facility.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a man who claimed he slipped and fell in a fast food restaurant. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss how lower courts should handle summary judgment motions filed by the defendant when conflicting facts exists. Since summary judgment is only appropriate when the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, when a court is presented with conflicting or contradictory theories, summary judgment is not appropriate, and the case should be presented to a jury for resolution of the contested facts.

Slippery WarningThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff slipped and fell as he was exiting the restroom in the defendant fast food restaurant. According to the plaintiff, he fell after he exited the restroom but before he could reach the back of the line. Evidently, as he planted his left foot to make a right turn, his foot slipped out from underneath him. He claimed an oily substance on the floor caused his fall.

The restaurant presented the court with video evidence of the line, as well as the cash-register area. The video showed a man, who appeared to be the plaintiff, slipping but not falling. The restaurant claimed that this showed that the plaintiff was lying about falling and asked the court to strike his testimony. In the alternative, the restaurant argued that the hazard allegedly causing the plaintiff’s fall was “open and obvious” because the lobby area in the video had recently been mopped, and an employee placed a “wet floor” sign near the area to warn customers.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a number of people who were injured when the rear deck of a home owned by the defendant and rented to several of the plaintiffs disconnected from the home and fell to the ground. Ultimately, the court concluded that the landlord may not be held liable for the plaintiffs’ injuries because there was insufficient evidence showing that the landlord knew the deck may have been in need of repair. As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiffs’ case was dismissed.

Wood DeckThe Facts of the Case

The landlord rented a home to several of the plaintiffs. Back when the landlord purchased the home in 1988, he hired an independent contractor to rebuild the home’s rear deck. In 2010, the landlord leased the home to several of the plaintiffs. At around the time when the plaintiffs took possession, the landlord visited the home, repaired a few boards on the rear deck, and inspected the deck for any visible defects. The landlord did not notice anything in need of structural repair.

A year after the plaintiffs moved in, they were hosting a barbecue when the rear deck pulled away from the home. The portion of the deck nearest to the home fell to the ground, injuring several of the people on the deck. A personal injury lawsuit was filed against the landlord, claiming that he was negligent in maintaining the deck.

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