The Open and Obvious Doctrine Is Not an Absolute Defense in Indiana Slip and Fall Lawsuits

When a person slips, and falls on another’s property in Indiana, the fall victim may be able to collect damages for the injuries they sustained. Indiana premises liability law establishes when a property owner is responsible for an accident victim’s injuries. Thus, it is important that slip and fall victims understand the state’s statute of limitations, duties, defenses, and damages before filing a lawsuit against a negligent property owner.

Under Indiana Code section 34-11-2-4, personal injury complainants must comply with the state’s two-year deadline. The statute of limitations applies to all negligence, intentional tort, and defamation lawsuits in Indiana. There are certain exceptions to the two-year deadline, such as if the injured party was under 18 years old at the time of the accident or they are mentally incapacitated. An exception may also apply if the culpable party leaves the state or attempts to conceal their identity.

Indiana slip and fall victims must be able to establish that the property owner owes the plaintiff a duty to exercise reasonable care from foreseeable hazards on the property. However, it is essential to note that the law does not require property owners to ensure a person’s safety while they are on the property. Typically, a property owner will be liable if they had knowledge of the dangerous condition, or if it was present for enough time that the owner should have discovered the hazard and prevented the injury. Indiana property owners must inspect and keep their property in a reasonably safe condition.

For example, the 7th Circuit recently issued an opinion stemming from injuries a plaintiff sustained after slipping and falling at a hardware store. In that case, the plaintiff went to a hardware store to pick up some lumber. As he was moving some boards, he tripped over wood that was part of a display sign. The court affirmed dismissal in that case based on the open and obvious nature of the sign. The court held that they could reasonably infer that the plaintiff noticed the sign when he was standing in front of it.

Property owners in Indiana often utilize three defenses to liability; the open and obvious doctrine, assumption of the risk, and comparative fault. Some states allow landowners to raise a defense against liability based on the fact that the danger was “open and obvious,” and therefore, the plaintiff was on notice and should have avoided the threat. However, Indiana courts do not accept this as an absolute defense in premises liability lawsuits. Instead, they have found that the state’s comparative fault and assumption of risk laws appropriately cover instances where the danger is open and obvious.

Under Indiana law, plaintiffs cannot recover damages if they are more than 50% at fault. However, if the plaintiff is 50% or less at fault, their damages will be reduced relative to their responsibility. Even though Indiana is a modified comparative fault state, defendants may use an assumption of risk defense in some limited circumstances.

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

If you or a loved one has been injured in an Indiana slip and fall accident, you should contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse. The attorneys are dedicated to their clients and work tirelessly to get them the compensation they deserve. Compensation related to personal injury damages may include payments for lost wages, ongoing medical expenses, and pain and suffering. The attorneys at our law firm are an indispensable resource for personal injury victims in Indiana. Contact the law firm at 888-532-7766 to schedule an initial consultation.