Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing a defense that is commonly raised in response to an Indiana premises liability case. The case involved a defendant’s allegations that it was unaware of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s fall and, thus, could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Indiana Premises Liability Law

In Indiana, landowners owe a duty of care to those whom they invite onto their property. The extent of that duty depends largely on the reason for the plaintiff’s visit. Customers or others who are present on a defendant’s property for business purposes are owed the highest duty. In these cases, the landowner must fix any dangerous condition on their property or warn the visitor about hazards that may not be obvious. However, if the landowner is unaware of the hazard, they may not have a duty at all.

Case Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a patient at a doctor’s office. As the plaintiff walked by a desk, she felt something catch the leg of her pant. The plaintiff fell to the ground, resulting in serious injury. After the fall, as the plaintiff was prone on the ground, she noticed that a wheelchair was leaning up against the desk just a few feet from where she was.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing the res ipsa loquitor doctrine. Res Ipsa Loquitor is a legal doctrine that applies in some Indiana personal injury cases and allows the fact-finder to make an inference that the defendant was negligent although there is no direct evidence of the defendant’s negligence.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was exiting an elevator when the elevator’s doors inexplicably closed on her. The plaintiff suffered injuries as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the condo association where the elevator was located. The plaintiff’s claim was brought under the theory of res ipsa loquitor.

Both the plaintiff and defendant presented expert witness testimony supporting their respective side. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s case, arguing that the res ipsa loquitor doctrine did not apply.

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Some of the most difficult jobs of a lawmaker is to weigh legitimate but competing interests and develop a reasonable compromise that everyone can live with. The Indiana recreational-use statute is a good example of Indiana lawmakers attempting to secure ample outdoor space for recreational activity while at the same time ensuring that Indianans remain safe while at play.

A recreational-use statute is a law under which qualifying landowners cannot be held liable for injuries that occur as the result of another party’s recreational use of the property. Indiana’s recreational-use statute is contained in Indiana Code section 14-22-10-2, and provides that landowners who do not charge a fee for others to use their property for “swimming, camping, hiking, sightseeing, or any other purpose,” do not assume responsibility for injuries occurring on their property.

Of course, the recreational-use statute does not apply to willful or intentional conduct on the part of the landowner. Thus, landowners who open up their land for public use but refuse to fix known hazards may still be liable for a visitor’s injuries. In order to get around the application of the recreational-use statute, an injury victim must be able to first prove that the landowner knew of the hazard’s existence. A recent slip-and-fall case discusses this requirement.

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Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving competing theories of how the plaintiff’s injury occurred, requiring the court to determine which of the two proposed alternatives were more likely. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s version of events was the only plausible version, and thus permitted his case to proceed.

The case presents an important issue for Indiana personal injury accident victims because it illustrates a common defense that defendants frequently raise in Indiana slip-and-fall cases.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured after he slipped and fell in a Wal-Mart aisle. The accident was caught on video, and showed that prior to the plaintiff’s fall, a Wal-Mart employee came through the area with an automated floor-cleaning machine. The machine was designed to dispense soapy liquid, scrub the floor, and squeegee the remaining liquid before sucking it back up into the machine.

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All business owners owe their customers a duty of care to keep areas accessible to customers in a reasonably safe condition. This generally means eliminating any known hazards, conducting frequent inspections to discover hazards, and warning customers of hazards that are either in the process of being fixed or cannot be fixed. If a business owner fails to live up to this duty, and a customer is injured as a result, the business may be liable for the customer’s injuries through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit.In a recent case, a court considered a lawsuit that was filed against a grocery store by a customer who slipped and fell while shopping. The court had to consider whether the store could be held liable even though the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s fall was the fault of an independent contractor that was employed by a company that the grocery store had paid to keep the store clean.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the grocery store had a non-delegable duty to keep the store safe and free of hazards. Thus, although there was no evidence suggesting that the store was responsible for the hazard, it could still be held liable based on its non-delegable duty.

The Facts of the Case

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a case presenting an interesting issue for many Indiana personal injury accident victims. The case involved an Indiana premises liability lawsuit, and required the court determine whether a group of wires on a hospital room floor were an obvious hazard or, in the alternative, if the plaintiff knew of their presence. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff did not have actual knowledge of the cords, and also that the cords were not an “obvious” hazard.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when she tripped on a cluster of wires that ran across the floor in the hospital room where her husband was staying after he was admitted to the hospital. The plaintiff first claimed that her fall was due to a “mess of wires” on the floor, and later stated that the fall was caused by a single telephone wire. The plaintiff later explained that she did not see any wires on the floor prior to her fall. However, she did acknowledge seeing a telephone in the room. The telephone wire ran from the wall to the telephone, which was on the plaintiff’s husband’s bedside table.

The case is unique in that it actually involves a legal malpractice claim made against a law firm that failed to timely file a complaint on behalf of the plaintiff. In order to succeed in her claim against the law firm, the plaintiff had to establish that her underlying claim against the hospital would have succeeded. The lower court granted the defendant law firm’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the plaintiff would not have been able to succeed in her claim because she knew of the hazard that caused her fall and that the hazard was obvious.

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In many Indiana personal injury cases, one or more parties files a motion for summary judgment before the witnesses are sworn and the actual trial begins. By filing a motion for summary judgment, a party is asking the trial judge to make a determination that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In other words, the filing party is claiming that when the judge considers all of the uncontested evidence, the non-moving party could not prevail under the applicable law.

Importantly, when there is conflicting evidence regarding a material issue in the case, summary judgment is not appropriate, and the case will be permitted to proceed toward a jury trial. A recent case illustrates how courts view defense summary judgment motions, and the type of evidence necessary to survive such a motion.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and her husband were shopping when at the defendant grocery store. At some point during their shopping trip, the plaintiff left her husband to use the restroom. On her way back to find her husband, the plaintiff slipped on a “brownish, oily substance.” As a result of the fall, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries and later filed a premises liability lawsuit against the store.

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In Indiana personal injury cases, before a case reaches trial, it will likely go through the summary judgment stage. Summary judgment is a process in which either party can ask the court to rule in their favor before witnesses are sworn or evidence is considered. Essentially, the court reviews the pleadings, accepting all uncontested facts as true, and then makes a determination if the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

In order to survive a motion for summary judgment, a plaintiff must be able to show that there is some material fact that needs to be resolved by the jury. A recent case illustrates how a court’s job in determining whether summary judgment is appropriate can be a difficult one.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was grocery shopping with her husband at the defendant’s store. The plaintiff put a bottle of Sunny Delight into their cart, and the couple continued shopping. Shortly afterward, the plaintiff left to find a restroom. Her husband continued to shop. It wasn’t until later that he noticed that the Sunny Delight bottle had been leaking.

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Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case involving a man who was seriously injured while skiing off-trail at a world-renowned ski resort. The case required the court to determine if the ski resort owed the plaintiff a duty of care to prevent this type of accident. Finding that the plaintiff assumed the risks involved in this type of activity, the court concluded that the resort owed him no duty. As a result, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

This case is important to Indiana personal injury plaintiffs because it discusses the assumption-of-the-risk doctrine and illustrates how courts apply the doctrine in practice.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, a ski instructor from California, was visiting Jackson Hole, Wyoming with friends on a ski trip. During their stay, the resort got about a foot of new snow. While much of the resort was machine-groomed, the plaintiff and his friends sought the resort’s ungroomed terrain.

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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.

The 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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