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.
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.
The plaintiff decided to file a premises liability lawsuit against the doctor’s office. The plaintiff acknowledged that she did not see the wheelchair before she fell, and that she was not sure it was what caught her pant leg. However, she did not notice anything else in the immediate area that could have caused her fall.
The doctor’s office presented the testimony of an employee who was near the plaintiff when she fell. The employee explained that he first saw the wheelchair after the plaintiff had fallen. He assumed that it was placed against the desk after the plaintiff’s fall by another employee or patient.
The Court’s Opinion
The court dismissed the plaintiff’s case, finding that she did not present any evidence that the doctor’s office knew of the wheelchair’s presence. The court noted that the employee’s testimony established that the wheelchair wasn’t leaned up against the desk before the plaintiff’s fall. The court then explained that the plaintiff’s testimony did nothing to contradict the employee’s statement. The court also noted that the plaintiff’s claim was based on the “assumption” that she tripped over the wheelchair, when she did not actually know that to be the case.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or someone you love has recently slipped and fallen while shopping or visiting any other commercial or medical establishment, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit. At the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we represent Indiana injury victims in all types of claims, including slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney, call 888-532-7766 today.
Indiana Court Holds Plaintiff’s Misuse of Tool Defeated Product Liability Claim, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, November 29, 2018
Court Discusses Res Ipsa Loquitor Doctrine in Recent Premises Liability Case, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, November 20, 2018