Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court released an opinion in a case involving the devastating murder of a student after he left school grounds without permission. The case illustrates important concepts of government liability and comparative fault, both of which are frequently at issue in Indiana personal injury lawsuits.

According to the court’s opinion, the young man’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Indiana school district, claiming that the school was responsible because it did not ensure that the young man stayed on school grounds. Reports indicated that the young man was frequently truant, and on the day of the murder, he came to school late and subsequently left through an unsecured exit while school was still in session. It is unclear why the student left school, but there was evidence to suggest that the young man left to engage in unlawful activities. Tragically, he was shot and murdered shortly after he left school.

The family’s lawsuit alleged that the school was responsible for the wrongful death of the young man because they did not adequately supervise the student during school hours. In response, the school district moved to dismiss the claim based on the Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA) as well as the doctrine of contributory negligence. The appeals court found that there were issues of material fact regarding whether the student was contributorily negligent in his death.

Earlier this month, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a product liability case discussing whether the lower court properly prevented the plaintiff’s expert from testifying. While the case did not arise in Indiana, it raises important issues for Indiana personal injury victims regarding the use and selection of expert witnesses. Additionally, the case provides some guidance for Indiana litigants, in that Indiana is in the Seventh Circuit.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was seriously injured at work while getting off a “car crushing” machine. Evidently, he slipped on a puddle of hydraulic fluid that had leaked from the machine. The plaintiff could not pursue a personal injury case against his employer due to the availability of workers’ compensation benefits. However, the plaintiff filed a claim against the manufacturer of the machine, as well as the company that leased the machine to the plaintiff’s employer. The plaintiff claimed that the machine was defectively designed.

In support of his claim, the plaintiff presented a professor in mechanical engineering as an expert witness. The expert planned to testify that the machine should have had a ladder, toe boards, and a guardrail installed to make it safe for users. The expert presented a safer proposed design in theory, but did not offer any sketches or elaborate on the concept.