Last month, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a case raising an important issue that frequently comes up in Indiana personal injury cases. The case required the court to assess whether a company that provided maintenance for machinery could be held responsible for an accident that may have been able to be prevented if certain safety features had been installed on the machinery. Ultimately, the court concluded that the maintenance company could not be held liable, and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff worked as a truck driver. One day, the plaintiff was waiting at his employer’s warehouse for another employee to load his empty tractor-trailer with goods. As the plaintiff was waiting for the trailer to be loaded, the employee who was operating the forklift backed up over the plaintiff’s foot. The forklift did not have a back-up alarm installed.
Evidently, the plaintiff’s employer had a contract with the defendant company to provide maintenance for the forklift. That agreement called for the defendant company to provide preventative maintenance on the forklift every 90 days. Apparently, the forklift had been serviced just a few months prior to the accident by one of the defendant’s employees, and the installation of a back-up alarm was not recommended. After the accident, the defendant installed a back-up alarm on the forklift.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the maintenance company, arguing that it was negligent not to warn the plaintiff’s employer to install a back-up alarm on the forklift. The trial court, however, granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed.
The Court’s Opinion
The court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case, holding that the defendant maintenance company did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care. The court explained that, to establish a duty of care in a failure-to-warn case, the plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant had greater knowledge of the danger. Here, however, the court explained that the plaintiff failed to present evidence showing that the defendant knew of the risks involved in operating the forklift without a back-up alarm. The court pointed out that the forklift did not come with a back-up alarm as standard equipment, and that this was not a situation where an aftermarket back-up alarm was installed, malfunctioned, and then was not properly repaired by the defendant’s employee. The court also held that the duty to warn “does not encompass the duty to recommend optional safety equipment.”
Are You in Need of a Dedicated Indiana Injury Lawyer?
If you have been the victim of an Indiana workplace accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through an Indiana personal injury lawsuit. At the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we represent those injured in Indiana workplace injuries in both workers’ compensation claims and third-party claims against non-employers. Call 888-732-7766 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Indiana injury attorney today.
Indiana Car Accidents Occurring in Parking Lots and on Other Private Property, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, January 14, 2019
Plaintiff Injured in Slip-and-Fall Accident at Doctor’s Office Failed to Show Defendant’s Knowledge of the Hazard that Caused Her Fall, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, December 11, 2018