The Court in Martin v. St. Dominic Memorial Hospital Explains the Indiana Personal Injury Evidence Rules

April 25, 2012

When you are involved in a Highland personal injury lawsuit, you have the burden of proving your contentions. But the rules governing evidence are very complex and can be very intimidating.
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Having the guidance of an experienced Highland injury attorney can mean the difference between winning and losing your case.

Martin v. St. Dominic Memorial Hospital is a case arising from a slip and fall. Martin ("plaintiff") was a patient at St. Dominic Memorial Hospital ("SDH" or "Defendant"). While attending a group therapy session within the building, plaintiff went to the bathroom. As she was walking back to the meeting, plaintiff slipped and fell onto her knees. There was a custodian waxing the floor at the time of the plaintiff's fall.

Plaintiff suffered injuries and swelling to her knees. She sued SDH for a cause of action for negligence. In order to prove your case for negligence, the plaintiff must prove each of the four elements. First, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff. Next, plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached this duty of care. Then the plaintiff has to prove that the defendants breach was the direct and proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. Lastly, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered damages.

The court in this case dealt with the issue of whether there was enough evidence presented by the plaintiff to prove her claim that SDH was negligent. The problem arose with the question of whether the defendant's actions or omissions caused the plaintiff's injuries.

It was uncontested that the plaintiff slipped and fell causing swelling to her knees. It was also accepted that the floor was being waxed and that the plaintiff did fall because of the slippery floor.

The doctor who treated plaintiff indicated that she was suffering from arthritis in her knees before the slip and fall. And in his treatment report, the doctor said the plaintiff's meniscus tear in her left knee could have been caused by "wear and tear" or an injury. This lack of specificity was not cured by questioning from the plaintiff's attorney. Therefore, the causal link between the defendant's alleged breach of duty and the plaintiff's injuries was not established.

In order for a doctor's testimony to be sufficient in the proving of this causation element of negligence, the doctor must analyze the probabilities. The plaintiff had to prove that her injuries were the result of her slip and fall at SDH or that her fall aggravated her preexisting condition. This lack of sufficient certainty in the doctor's report means the third element of negligence was not fulfilled and therefore the negligence action was not appropriate.

The court in this case indicated that because a reasonable jury would be unable to decipher whether plaintiff's knee injuries were caused by her fall at SDH or from wear and tear due to arthritis, the defendants should be awarded with a directed verdict.

This case shows how important it is to have an attorney who can help get the evidence needed in your personal injury case.

If you have been injured contact Highland injury attorneys at Padove Law to schedule your free appointment. Call 219-836-2200.

Additional Resources:

Martin v. St. Dominic Memorial Hospital, No. 2009-CT-01365-SCT (Miss. S.Ct. Apr. 4, 2012).