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Indiana schools have a duty to ensure the safety of students while they are attending school and after-school activities. This duty generally requires that school employees and administrators take reasonable precautions to prevent injuries. For example, schools are required to maintain safe premises, free of dangerous hazards that may result in an Indiana slip-and-fall accident.

Field HockeySchools are also responsible to take adequate precautions when designing curriculums, especially in classes that present a heightened danger, such as shop classes and gym classes. However, there are several legal doctrines that can come into play when a student is injured at school. A recent case illustrates the type of analysis a court will conduct when considering whether a school can be held liable for a student’s injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a student at the defendant school. One day in gym class, the plaintiff was injured when he was accidentally struck in the eye by another student’s stick during a game of floor hockey. After the accident, the plaintiff required eye surgery.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by a man who was seriously injured while crossing the street after parking in the defendant’s off-site parking lot. The case presents an issue that often comes up in Indiana premises liability cases:  specifically, whether the defendant landowner owed the plaintiff a duty of care under the facts of the case.

CrosswalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a petitioner at the defendant church. On a rainy evening, the plaintiff drove to the church for an evening seminar. Upon arriving at the church, the plaintiff realized that the on-site parking lot was full. A church volunteer directed the plaintiff across the street, to the church’s off-site parking lot. The parking lot was located immediately across a five-lane road.

The plaintiff parked in the off-site parking lot. He exited his car and, rather than walk the 50 to 100 feet to the nearest intersection, attempted to cross right where he had parked. As he was partially across the road, he was struck by a passing vehicle.

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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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Earlier this month, the federal circuit court of appeals overseeing both the northern and southern districts of Indiana issued an opinion in a medical malpractice case illustrating the importance of expert testimony in Indiana medical malpractice lawsuits. The case was brought to the court by the plaintiff’s appeal, which claimed that the lower court had erred in finding in favor of the defense. However, the appellate court agreed that the testimony of the defendant’s expert witness was supported by the patient’s medical records and that the plaintiff’s expert witness was impeached as to his failure to consult relevant medical literature. As a result, the court affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendant.

WheelchairThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the wife of a man who died shortly after he was admitted into the care of a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. Initially, the plaintiff’s husband was at the hospital for routine lab work, but when the results came back abnormal, he was admitted. At the time, the plaintiff’s husband suffered from a number of medical conditions, including morbid obesity, respiratory acidosis, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity hypoventilation syndrome, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia.

The plaintiff’s husband was not complaining of anything specific, but the plaintiff told hospital workers that she wanted someone with him at all times because he “was not acting like himself.” The hospital determined that the plaintiff’s husband was not in need of a personal sitter, which is normally only necessary in cases involving psychotic and delirious patients.

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Earlier this month, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a written opinion in an Indiana car accident case involving a plaintiff’s claim that the employer of a delivery driver was responsible for injuries caused by the delivery driver. The plaintiff made several claims, including one under the doctrine of respondeat superior as well as another claim alleging negligent hiring. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the employer admitted that the employee was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, the employer only can be held liable under the theory of respondeat superior.

Pizza BoxesThe Facts of the Case

In August 2012, a delivery driver for a pizza restaurant was making a delivery when she rear-ended the plaintiff, who was riding a motorized scooter. The plaintiff was thrown from the scooter onto the road, where he was struck by another motorist. The plaintiff was killed in the accident.

The plaintiff’s estate filed a wrongful death case against all three parties:  the delivery driver, the pizza restaurant, and the driver who struck the plaintiff once she fell from the scooter. This opinion only involves the plaintiff’s claims against the pizza restaurant.

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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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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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Before any Indiana personal injury case reaches trial, the parties must go through the pre-trial discovery stage. During the discovery phase of a personal injury lawsuit, the parties are required to exchange relevant evidence, including documents, witness names, and other information, that is requested by the opposing party.

DocumentsSome relevant evidence that is otherwise discoverable, however, is exempt from the rules of discovery if it is covered by one or more privileges. A privilege attaches to a certain class of evidence and is usually based on some public policy concern. For example, the attorney-client privilege protects correspondence between an attorney and his client, based on the idea that a client should trust that he can be honest with his attorney without risking the attorney disclosing the substance of the conversation.

A recent appellate court opinion in a nursing home negligence case upheld the nursing home’s asserted privilege that was based on a state statute.

The Facts of the Case

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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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