Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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.

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.

Contact Information