Court Discusses the Summary Judgment Standard in Recent Premises Liability Lawsuit

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.

As the plaintiff returned from the restroom, she slipped on a puddle of orange-brown liquid. As a result, she was seriously injured. At the time of the plaintiff’s fall, a store employee was cleaning up a spill consisting of similar liquid in an adjacent aisle.

There was a surveillance video that caught the plaintiff’s fall. However, the camera only recorded when it was triggered by motion. Thus, the video clip only started moments before the plaintiff’s fall, and there was no way to determine how long the spill had been there.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the store. In response, the store argued that the plaintiff failed to show how long the spill had been present. Under the relevant law, an element of a plaintiff’s premises liability case is showing that the defendant knew or should have known of the hazard. Here, the store argued that since there was no evidence showing how long the spill had been there, the plaintiff could not establish that the store knew or should have known of its existence.

The court, however, rejected the defendant’s argument and found in favor of the plaintiff. The court explained that, as a general matter, issues of negligence are reserved for the jury, and it is only when there is a complete absence of evidence that summary judgement will be appropriate. Here, the court held, the video showing the plaintiff’s fall gave rise to a material issue of fact regarding the amount of time the spill had been present. Since the video did not show the area prior to the plaintiff’s fall, the court determined that the jury should make the determination of whether the defendant knew or should have known of its existence, rather than the judge.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience representing victims in Indiana premises liability cases as well as other personal injury cases. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule your free consultation with an attorney today.

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