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As the weather warms up and summer rolls in, flocks of people will begin to make their way to water parks around Indiana where they can enjoy time with family and cool off, or seek the thrill of a roller coaster or a water slide. While most of these trips are packed with fun memories, these parks are often unable to guarantee visitors’ safety, and should be held accountable if a ride or attraction causes a visitor’s injuries.

According to a recent appellate opinion, a plaintiff brought a products liability suit against a local water park after he was injured while going down a water slide. The plaintiff inadvertently slipped from a seated position on an inner tube onto his stomach, and when he entered the pool below, his feet hit the bottom and he fractured his pelvis and hip. Despite the evidence of injury presented by the plaintiff, the trial court ruled in favor of the defense on the products liability claim.

On appeal, the defense argued that the plaintiff’s product liability claims should fail because the water park provides its patrons with a service, rather than a product. The park argued that guests pay admission to obtain a “service” involving the use of water slides rather than paying a fee to primarily use the water slides. Thus, according to the defendant, the plaintiff’s product liability claim was not a viable theory of recovery.

Tragedy struck recently in Fort Wayne, Indiana when a crash between a motorcycle and a car turned deadly, killing the motorcyclist. According to a news report covering the incident, the crash occurred on Sunday, May 24, around 2:40 p.m. at the intersection of Illinois Road and Thomas Road. The motorcycle was driving east on Illinois Road and struck a car that was turning into its path. When authorities arrived on the scene, they found an adult female laying on the ground in critical condition. She was immediately transported to the hospital, where she died shortly after.

Cases like this highlight the dangers that motorcyclists face when involved in accidents. While any motor vehicle accident is of concern, motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable because there is less protection between their bodies and the road, or with other vehicles. Because of this, accidents involving motorcycles are more likely to result in severe injuries or death.

The incident in Fort Wayne is still under investigation, so it is not yet clear who was at fault. If, however, the driver of the car was at all negligent or responsible for the accident, the deceased cyclist’s family members may be able to file a wrongful death suit against them. Indiana law allows the estate of a deceased accident victim to file such claims, and damages may be awarded to the estate or to individual family members, such as the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents. To be successful, the estate typically must prove that the other driver was negligent in some way—for example, that they were texting while driving, or that they failed to follow basic road safety—and that their negligence was the direct and proximate cause of the accident and the victim’s death. If the defendant was texting while driving five minutes before the crash, but then was driving perfectly safely when the accident occurred, it may be difficult to prove causation. If, however, the defendant was texting while driving when the crash occurred, causation will be easier to prove.

Like many other states, Indiana premises liability law generally allows those injured on someone else’s property to file a civil negligence suit against the property owner. For example, if someone slips and falls on a wet floor in a grocery store, or trips on an uneven sidewalk in front of someone’s house, they likely have a potential negligence suit against the owner of the grocery store or house property. However, Indiana also has what is called a recreational-use statute, to insulate certain landowners from such claims. The law, which is in Indiana Code section 14-22-10-2, provides that landowners who allow those to use their property for recreational purposes—such as swimming, camping, or sightseeing—without charging a fee are not liable for the injuries occurring on the property.

For an example of a personal injury suit that would likely be barred by this statute, take a recent appellate opinion from Georgia, a state with a similar law. According to the court’s written opinion, a public park was used by a University to set up a free concert series. On the night in question, the plaintiff attended the concert with her sister, but as she was leaving, she fell backward on a staircase with no handrails, sustaining serious head injuries and ultimately dying. Her estate filed a wrongful death suit against the University group that held the concert, but the defendants claimed their suit was barred by the Georgia recreational use statute.

The question in the case was whether the defendant invited people to the park for recreational or commercial purposes. The plaintiffs attempted to argue that the concert served a commercial purpose, since the defendant invited vendors to sell food and drinks, and allowed sponsors to erect tents with their logos to promote their businesses. However, the defendants were able to convince the court that the purpose was recreational despite these facts, since concert-goers were not required to purchase food or drinks and could bring their own, and there was no fee charged for the concert. As a result, the deceased’s estate could not recover in a wrongful death suit against the University group, and in fact could not even bring the suit to court.

Under Indiana Code Title 9 Motor Vehicles section 9-21-8-35, motorists should proceed cautiously and change lanes when they approach emergency vehicles that are displaying flashing lights or giving audible signals. Individuals who fail to abide by these rules may be subject to criminal or civil charges. Some common vehicles that Indiana drivers should watch for are:

  • Police vehicles
  • Fire trucks and rescue crews

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Indiana truck drivers travel over several millions of miles on the state’s roadways each year, and over 400,000 of these vehicles are involved in crashes. Indiana experiences a high number of trucking accidents every year, in part because of the state’s geographic location. The state acts as a conduit for freight delivery between states, which results in significant truck traffic. Further, commercial vehicle registration is significantly less expensive than several other surrounding states. Many trucking companies maintain hubs in the state because of the lower registration fees.

Indiana truck accidents are among the most likely to result in serious injury or death because large trucks can cause significant damage. Many trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds or more when they are loaded with cargo. The sheer magnitude of these vehicles makes them disproportionately more likely to be involved in a multi-vehicle accident.

Truck drivers often remain unscathed during these accidents because their vehicles protect them. For example, recently, an Indianapolis man died in a wrong-way crash with a semi-truck. According to a local news report, the 72-year-old man died when he was driving in the wrong lane and slammed into an enormous truck. The driver of the Freightliner noticed the man approaching him and tried to avoid the collision but could not do so in time. The truck driver and his co-driver did not suffer any injuries. Another vehicle then collided into a state patrol car while police were investigating the scene of the accident.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana recently issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from injuries a woman suffered after she fell and hit her head outside of her apartment complex. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the apartment complex and rental company, alleging that they breached their duty of keeping the public walkways and entry areas safe from dangerous conditions. In response, the apartment company filed a motion for summary judgment and a motion to strike the plaintiff’s expert report. The trial court granted the defendant summary judgment, and the woman filed an appeal arguing that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the apartment complex breached its duty to the plaintiff.

Under Indiana law, summary judgment is designed to terminate litigation when there is no dispute as to a genuine issue of material fact. A material fact is one that is relevant to the ultimate resolution of an issue in the case. In the context of negligence cases, summary judgment is frequently inappropriate because the cases are often fact-specific and governed by a “reasonable person” standard. However, the court may grant summary judgment motions when an undisputed piece of material evidence eliminates a critical element of a negligence claim. Plaintiffs who want to recover from a landlord must show that the landlord breached a duty that they owed the plaintiff. Moreover, typically, plaintiffs cannot succeed on a negligence claim merely by showing that they fell and suffered injuries; they must generally show that the landlord knew or should have known about the hazard.

In this case, the plaintiff argued that the apartment company failed to remove hazardous ice, which caused her to slip and fall. Further, in addition to evidence of her fall, the plaintiff testified that on the day of the accident, she tried to avoid a slippery area by walking on the service ramp. Although, she could not see the ice on the service ramp, she assumed she slipped because of the ice. The defendants maintain that the ramp was not icy, and they bolstered their position by pointing to the plaintiff’s statement that she did not see the ice. The court reasoned that because the plaintiff’s claim was not based on inferential speculation, there remained a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the apartment company breached its duty to maintain a safe walkway. Ultimately, the court reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Naturally, family members who lose a loved one as a result of another’s negligence hope to seek justice on their loved one’s behalf. While no amount of compensation could take the place of a lost loved one, it can provide the family with some financial and emotional relief during these tragic times. Under state law, an Indiana wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate when the death of an individual is the result of another’s wrongful act or omission. In these cases, the representative or estate of the deceased individual serves as the plaintiff to establish liability and seek monetary damages. Many of these lawsuits stem from Indiana medical malpractice claims, nursing home abuse and neglect cases, and motor vehicle accidents.

Indiana allows a personal representative of the individual’s estate to file a claim, but courts will only award damages to the deceased’s spouse, child, or dependents. In cases where there are multiple beneficiaries, courts will decide how the award should be divided. Lawsuits involving children must be brought by the child’s parent or legal guardian.

Like all civil lawsuits, Indiana wrongful death claims must follow the state’s strict statute of limitations. Under the law, plaintiffs must file their wrongful death claims within two years of the victim’s death. Family members who do not comply with the statute of limitations may risk dismissal and any chance for recovery. These time limits apply even when the victim is a child or if there is an ongoing criminal lawsuit for the same event.

Drinking and driving is against the law because drunk drivers are far more likely to get into a car accident and injure or kill someone else. When this happens, accident victims can bring them to court in a civil negligence suit to recover for their injuries. What many people do not realize, however, is that the victims may be able to sue someone else too—those who served alcohol to the intoxicated driver.

The family of a 21-year-old woman killed in a tragic car accident last March is doing just that. According to a local news report covering the accident and subsequent lawsuit, the incident occurred on Saturday, March 7. The intoxicated driver, a 31-year-old woman, was driving a white SUV the wrong way on the highway when she hit another car, a white Chevrolet, head-on. Two women in the Chevrolet, age 21 and 22, were killed. There were also two children in the backseat of the Chevrolet; one of them died, and the other was taken to the hospital. The intoxicated driver was also taken to the hospital with severe injuries, and the criminal investigation into the crash is ongoing.

The family of the 21-year-old victim wasted no time in filing a civil negligence lawsuit. In the lawsuit, they accuse both the driver and Sazerac, the liquor brand the driver worked for. According to their complaint, the driver was a recruiter for Sazerac and was attending their Northwest Ordinance distilling Mardi Gras party shortly before the crash. The complaint alleges that Sazerac agents and employees saw the driver drunk and yet still allowed her to drive away. The driver, heavily intoxicated, drove away at 9 p.m., and about fourteen minutes later, 911 began receiving calls about the crash. Tragically, the local news article reported one of the calls made by a sobbing caller: “Oh my God, there’s somebody on the highway, and they’re driving the wrong way, and they just smashed somebody… those people are dead. There’s no way they survived that.”

Zantac is an over the counter drug used by many for acid reflux and heartburn. However, new research suggests that it may be causing cancer. According to a recent article, the United States Food and Drug Administration, responsible for regulating drugs across the country, is requesting that manufacturers pull Zantac from the market immediately because an ongoing investigation has found a human carcinogen in it. Apparently, the carcinogen—N-Nitrosodimethylamine or NDMA—can increase in the medication over time, posing a serious risk to public health and Indiana residents who may take the drug.

The FDA has sent letters to manufacturers asking them to withdraw the products from the market. Consumers are advised to stop taking any of the medication that they currently have, and to not buy any more. Additionally, consumers are asked to dispose of their unused Zantac, following the instructions in the medication guide or on the FDA website. If consumers need to continue taking medication for acid reflux or heartburn, they can take another approved medication that has not been found to have NDMA in it.

Although the announcement from the FDA was just made recently, concerns have been present for months. CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart all announced in September that they would no longer sell Zantac, and drugmaker Sanofi voluntarily recalled the drug in October.

In a recent opinion, the Indiana Supreme Court addressed the amount of time a plaintiff has to bring a product liability lawsuit against a company. The case originated after a plaintiff suffered injuries while working on his employer’s machine. The employer purchased the new device from the defendant in 2003, about 11 years before the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, alleging that the machine was defective. The parties agreed that the ten-year statute of repose barred the plaintiff’s lawsuit, but they recognized a judicial exception to the statute. The appeals court acknowledged the exception, but because of “questionable provenance,” certified the question of whether the statute of repose can be extended by post-sale repair/refurbishment/reconstruction of a product, to the high appellate court.

Under the Indiana Products Liability Act, plaintiffs must bring a claim of this nature within two years after the action accrues or within ten years after the delivery of the product to the purchaser. Nevertheless, if the cause of action comes more than eight years but less than ten years after the original delivery, the action may begin any time within two years after the initial cause of action. The statute provides exceptions for asbestos-related claims. In this case, the court found that the law is unambiguous, and the exception does not apply in the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The plaintiff acknowledged that he suffered his injuries eleven years after his employer acquired the product; however, he asked the court to interpret the statute to include an additional exception.

The plaintiff argued that a further exception exists for products that undergo a significant change, thereby creating a new product and restarting the statute of limitations. Although some courts have addressed this issue, Indiana courts have not applied it as an exception to the statute of repose. The court reasoned that the law requires them to look at the plain meaning of the statute. However, they did address the implications of a “new product” exception. This exception would require the court to identify what properties define a product, and what change is necessary to create a new product. The court ultimately found that because the legislature is silent on the issue, there is no reason to go beyond the plain meaning of the statute. Therefore, they found that his lawsuit was barred due to the statute of repose.

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