The Court of Appeals of Indiana issued an opinion addressing common issues that many residents face after falling at an apartment complex. The case stems from injuries a woman suffered after falling and hitting her head outside of her Indiana apartment. She filed a negligence lawsuit against the apartment complex and rental company, alleging that they were liable under Indiana’s premises liability laws. She argued that her injuries were a result of the company’s failure to keep public areas of the apartment complex free from dangerous hazards. At trial, the court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.
Under Indiana law, a lessee who wishes to recover from a negligent landlord must be able to establish that the landlord breached a duty that they owed to the tenant. Merely alleging that a fall took place is insufficient to prove that the landlord or property manager was negligent. Although inferential speculation is not enough to prove negligence, plaintiffs can overcome a summary judgment motion if they provide enough details to show a genuine issue of material fact that needs resolution. For the purposes of summary judgment, a material fact is one that is relevant to the ultimate resolution of a pertinent issue.
In this case, the plaintiff argued that she fell because the apartment complex failed to clear the public area of ice and snow. In support of her allegation, she provided testimony that indicated that the day she fell, “it was pretty cold,” and she noticed that the entry of her building looked “slippery and icy.” She further testified that a close-by service ramp did not look slippery; however, she fell as soon as she stepped onto the ramp. The defendants argued that the plaintiff’s inference that the ramp was slippery was based on inferential speculation. However, the appellate court found that the plaintiff’s observation of icy conditions creates a genuine issue of material fact. The appellate court ultimately reversed the trial court’s summary judgment order and remanded the case.