Recently, a state appellate court issued a decision in an Indiana product liability case discussing whether the manufacturer of a component part can be held liable for its failure to install what the plaintiff alleges is a necessary safety feature. The court concluded that this case was somewhat unique in that the component part at issue had only one final use, and because of that, the question of whether a duty existed should be resolved by a jury.

According to the court’s opinion, a semi-truck was backing up on a job site when it ran over a construction foreman. The foreman died as a result of his injuries. The foreman’s wife (“the plaintiff”) filed a wrongful death case against the defendant, under a theory of product liability.

The defendant manufactured the “glider kit,” which consists of the frame and body of the truck. To turn the glider kit into a completed semi-truck, the purchaser must install an engine, transmission, and exhaust system. The glider kit did not come with any back-up cameras or alarms. However, a purchaser could opt to add those items onto the kit at an additional cost.

Although the Indiana Department of Transportation (DOT) declined to install a traffic signal at an intersection, possibly playing a role in a fatal car accident that later occurred at the site, the state appellate court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the agency.

Ultimately, the court ruled, provisions of the Indiana Tort Claims Act shielded the government from civil liability.

That does not necessarily mean plaintiffs were without any options for recovering damages, but it does mean those damages will not come from the state government. This negligence and wrongful death lawsuit outcome illustrates the difficulties associated with holding government agencies accountable in injury litigation, as they enjoy a number of broad legal protections.

Plaintiffs Assert Negligent Road Design in Fatal Crash

The case was filed following a deadly summer 2014 crash in West Lafayette, at an intersection constructed as part of the state’s Major Moves project, an aggressive, decade-long plan to improve Indiana’s highway infrastructure. When the Indiana DOT (INDOT) began construction, both city and county officials requested a temporary traffic control signal. INDOT, however, declined, finding the intersection didn’t meet traffic volume requirements to justify a signal, but did install a stop sign for east-west drivers. Continue reading

A man from Indiana is one of a half a dozen people alleging a food product company sold unreasonably dangerous cooking spray that exploded while in use, causing severe burns.

Local news reports indicate the Indianapolis plaintiff, a medical student, sustained burns back in March, 2019,  while cooking with his girlfriend. He spent months in the hospital and had to undergo numerous skin grafts and other surgeries after suffering burns on most of his upper body. He and other plaintiffs are now incensed the company refuses to recall the product and insists the cooking spray is safe.

Plaintiff was cooking when a can of the common spray, sitting near the stove top, reportedly exploded, erupting into a fire. As his girlfriend noted, “He’s a full-time med student. He’s educated. He’s very smart – and he had no idea.”

A trucker severely injured when his trailer contents fell on him as he opened  the trailer door won a partial legal victory when the Indiana Court of Appeals recently overturned a summary judgment against the trucking company whose employee loaded the trailer.

Munster personal injury attorneys will note that while this was a work-related injury, which presumably would entitle the truck driver to workers’ compensation from his own employer, such third-party lawsuits to cover the full cost of losses is not uncommon in Indiana.

The trial court in this case held that both the engine parts manufacturer whose cargo was stowed in the truck, and the trucking company contracted to facilitate transport, did not owe a duty of care to the over-the-road-truck driver, whose employer was contracted by the trucking company to deliver the materials over longer distances. The state appellate court last month reversed this decision, at least as it pertained to the trucking company that contracted with the driver’s employer.

Indiana businesses may want to take note and review their customer safety and security policies and procedures given a recent appellate court ruling which affirmed a bar owner’s legal duty to be proactive in protecting patrons after a customer was seriously injured in a brawl.

Civil cases like this fall under the umbrella of premises liability. Assuming a person is not trespassing and has a right or invitation to be there (paying customers especially), those who own/control property generally have a duty to exercise reasonable care to shield against known or foreseeable hazards. Whether a property owner can be held liable in these situations varies greatly depending on a host of factors, chief among them whether there is a prior history of dangerous incidents that effectively places the business on notice that more stringent safety measures are needed. The big questions are usually: what constitutes “reasonable” and “foreseeable”, especially when an incident involves a criminal attack by a third-party.

In a recent decision, the main point of contention before the Indiana Court of Appeals was whether the bar owed any duty at all to a patron, given that the fight that resulted in serious injury occurred in the parking lot after closing.

A woman injured in an alleged Indiana drunk driving accident this month won her appeal seeking pursuit of punitive damages against the defendant. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant. The ruling is a victory for victims of Indiana drunk drivers in once again affirming the well-established view of courts in Indiana (going at least as far back as the Indiana Supreme Court’s 1985 ruling in Williams v. Crist) about the egregious wrong one does in taking the wheel while drunk. In that case nearly 35 years ago, the state high court held unequivocally: A person guilty of impaired driving is automatically guilty of the “willful and wanton misconduct” requirement necessary to to seek punitive damages in an Indiana injury lawsuit.

Why Punitive Damages in Indiana Drunk Driving Claims Matter

If you suffer injury and/or other losses because of somebody else’s negligence, there are two general kinds of damages you can pursue. The first, compensatory damages, applies in every case and the goal is monetary compensation that aims to “make the plaintiff whole.”

Of course, our Munster drunk driving injury lawyers know that there really is nothing – no amount of money – that can achieve that goal. There is absolutely no price tag on catastrophic injuries or death, and those affected would give back every dime if it meant they could regain what they lost. Still, the goal of compensatory damages is all about what a plaintiff has lost and what can be offered to help them heal to the fullest extent possible. The amount is supposed to be calculated in a way that equitably compensates a person, sometimes dollar-for-dollar (i.e., medical bills), but other times for intangible losses like pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
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All drivers in the State of Indiana are required to purchase some combination of auto insurance as set by state lawmakers, currently a minimum of 25/50/10 ($25,000 per person/$50,000 per crash bodily injury liability and $10,000 for property damage). That 25/50 coverage isn’t for the policy holder. It’s to cover damages caused by the insured’s negligence (because Indiana is an at-fault and not a no-fault state). And although Indiana doesn’t require drivers to buy UIM crash insurance (underinsured motorist coverage) in case an at-fault driver’s policy isn’t sufficient to cover the damages, IN Code 27-7-5-2 does mandate that auto insurers offer every policy standard with it and insured must sign a written waiver to decline. Munster car accident attorneys know the law is also clear that UIM limits are never to exceed the limit of bodily injury liability coverage.

A question recently before the Indiana Court of Appeals was whether a UIM insurer was legally barred for selling a policy with UIM coverage in amounts less than bodily injury liability coverage. Could a policy be invalidated on that basis?

The court answered no in Troy Lee v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Companydisagreeing with the plaintiff truck driver who was injured in an on-the-job crash that the amounts had to be the same. Continue reading

When our Indiana personal injury lawyers first read the headline referencing a “food truck” and an “explosion,” we assumed the latter was a figure of speech intended to punch up a story on the proliferation of the increasingly popular mobile cuisine, which took off around 2007 amid the economic recession. The industry grew 9 percent annually between 2010 and 2015. Unfortunately, the headline was referring to an actual explosion involving a food truck in June 2015 as it was stationed in the parking lot of an auto salvage yard in Indianapolis, where customers – including plaintiff – were being served.

The case history here is extensive, but the crux of the Indiana Court of Appeals’ decision in the defendants’ favor was that plaintiffs failed to prove defendant property owner could have reasonably foreseen the possibility of a food truck blowing up on-site. At first glance, that seems a reasonable position. However, it turns out there have been a number of serious – and even deadly – food truck explosions across the U.S. in recent years.

In June 2014 – a year almost to the day of the Indiana food truck explosion – a propane tank on a food truck in Philadelphia exploded while customers were being served. Local news reports indicated that the force of the blast sent the metal tank 50 feet into a nearby backyard and flames shooting up 200 feet into the air. As a result of that incident, a 42-year-old woman and her 17-year-old daughter who were inside the truck, were killed after suffering major burns across much of their bodies. Three bystanders – including a little girl – also sustained serious burns and others were hit by debris. An investigation later revealed the 70-year-old propane tank was improperly filled, resulting in a gas leak and ultimately the explosion. Continue reading

The Indiana Court of Appeals this month rejected an argument by an auto insurer that it should not be required to cover bodily injury damages caused by its insured because a policy exclusion barred him from coverage if he drove with a suspended license. As long-time Indiana car accident attorneys in Gary, we know well the ways in which auto insurance companies will seek to deny coverage. Exclusions drafted into auto insurance policies are the basis for many insurance claim denials. However, as our injury lawyers often explain, an insurance company denial is not the last word. With the help of a dedicated personal injury attorney, auto insurance denials can often be successfully challenged.

According to court records in the recent case, the insured/at-fault driver in this matter lost control of his vehicle and slammed into the side of the residence, resulting in both bodily injury and property damage for himself as well as the occupants of the dwelling.

Although the driver’s license was suspended at the time of the crash, his vehicle was insured by a policy he obtained months earlier. However, an exclusion contained in that policy stated: “We do not provide liability coverage for any ‘insured’ using a vehicle without reasonable belief that ‘insured’ is entitled to do so. This exclusion … does not apply to a family member using your covered auto, which is owned by you.”

In a workplace injury lawsuit relevant to future Indiana work injury claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that a company responsible for equipment maintenance could not be held liable for a forklift injury resulting from failure to warn an employer about the risk of not installing an alarm. There was no question the forklift wasn’t designed, manufactured or shipped to the original purchaser with a backup alarm. Further, as of the date of the accident (in mid-2013) there was no regulation that required the equipment to have one. Defendant did service the forklift several times prior to an accident (during which the heavy machinery rolled over a worker’s foot). The most recent had been just a few months prior. The technician couldn’t recall if the forklift had a backup alarm, but if it did, he didn’t make note of it in his report.

After the accident, the injured worker’s employer asked another company to install a backup alarm. That company’s technician affirmed there was no alarm already on it.

Although workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy a worker has for an Indiana work injury (same goes for workers in Illinois, where this accident occurred), what is allowed is third-party liability. As Munster work injury attorneys can explain, this means that if a third-party – someone other than an employer or co-worker – was responsible for causing an injury that occurred in the course and scope of  employment, that party can be held liable for negligence. Workers aren’t compensated twice, but a third-party negligence claim may entitle injured workers to collect more than they would otherwise be able to collect from workers’ compensation (which is generally limited to a portion of lost wages and medical bills).