Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment for Defendants and dismissing this suit brought by the estate of an Arlington Community High School student who was murdered after leaving school grounds, holding that the student was contributorily negligent as he left the school to participate in a criminal act. The student in this case was shot and killed after he left the school grounds without permission. His estate sued the school and the school corporation for negligence for failing to monitor and supervise the student. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Defendants were not entitled to immunity under the Indiana Tort Claims Act and that there were issues of material fact regarding Defendant's contributory negligence claim. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that, under the contributory negligence law, the estate's claims against Defendants were barred as a matter of law. View "Murray v. Indianapolis Public Schools" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the verdict of the jury in Plaintiff's favor in this personal injury case, holding that an expert witness's professional licensure status and the reasons for professional discipline may be admissible to challenge the expert's credibility. Plaintiff was rear-ended by Defendant. The expert in this case was a doctor who testified that Plaintiff suffered permanent injury from the automobile accident. The trial court excluded evidence that the expert's medical license had previously been on probation and the reasons for the expert's past professional discipline. The jury found in favor of Plaintiff and awarded $1.3 million in damages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court abused its discretion when it excluded evidence that the expert's medical license had been on probation, but the error was harmless; and (2) the trial court properly excluded evidence of the reasons for the expert's professional discipline because that evidence was inadmissible under certain evidentiary rules. View "Tunstall v. Manning" on Justia Law

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In this Indiana Product Liability Act (IPLA) design-defect case, the Supreme Court held that the the trial court erred in determining that a component-part manufacturer owed no duty, as a matter of law, to install safety features that the injury party alleged were necessary. PACCAR, Inc. was the manufacturer of a glider kit, a component part that becomes an operable semi-truck after a purchaser installs an engine, exhaust system, and transmission. The glider kit has a blind spot behind it, and PACCAR did not include certain safety features to mitigate the danger created by the blind spot unless a customer specifically requested them. A driver backed up a semi with an integrated PACCAR glider kit and stuck and killed a construction foreman. His widow brought a design-defect claim against PACCAR, claiming that the lack of the safety features rendered the glider kit defective. The trial court granted PACCAR's motion for summary judgment, concluding that PACCAR owed no duty to install the safety features because the duly fell solely on the final manufacturer of the completed semi. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding that whether PACCAR owed the decedent a duty to includes the features was a question for the trier of fact. View "Brewer v. PACCAR, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment on David Shaner’s claim for damages related to loss of consortium after his wife Laura’s death due to complications with the administration of dialysis treatments, holding that the wrongful death and survival statutes enable David’s claim to survive regardless of the existence of an heir. In his complaint, David sought two categories of damages contemplated by Indiana’s wrongful death statute: damages related to medical hospital, funeral, and burial expenses; and additional damages including loss of consortium, loss earnings and wages, and loss of additional employment benefits. David died during litigation, leaving no immediately ascertainable heirs. In moving for partial summary judgment on the loss of consortium claim, Defendants argued that any damages in excess of medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses would only serve to punish Defendants because the damages would pass to the State. The trial court granted the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that David’s claim for survivor damages could have survived regardless of the existence of an heir, and therefore, summary judgment on this claim was inappropriate. View "Horejs v. Milford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant on Plaintiff’s defective design claim, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, Plaintiff’s misuse of a tool was the cause of his injuries and could not have been reasonably expected by Defendant, the tool’s manufacturer. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that the tool was defective in its design. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the evidence established that Plaintiff misused the tool by failing to follow its directions. The trial court found that Plaintiff misused the tool and that he was at least fifty-one percent responsible for his injuries. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment for Defendant, holding (1) the misuse defense serves as a complete defense; and (2) Plaintiff’s injuries could have been avoided had he followed the instructions, and Defendant could not reasonably expect that a consumer would misuse the tool in the manner that Plaintiff did. View "Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Fetzer Co. v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the trial court setting aside the default judgment against certain defendants and denying Plaintiff’s motion to correct error, holding that the defendants made the requisite showing under Trial Rule 60(B)(1) of a meritorious defense. Matthew Joseph accidentally discharged a firearm while cleaning it, and the bullet struck Genia Wamsley, the occupant of the adjacent unit. Plaintiff, the personal representative of Genia’s estate, brought suit against the insurer of the apartment complex and its management company (collectively, Landlords) and Joseph. None of the defendants timely answered the complaint, and Wamsley was granted an entry of default judgment. Thereafter, Landlords moved to set aside the default judgment on grounds of excusable neglect. The trial court granted the motions and denied Plaintiff’s motion to correct error. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there existed “even slight evidence of excusable neglect.” View "Wamsley v. Tree City Village" on Justia Law

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In this case brought against two women who were sexually assaulted by two on-duty police officers, the Supreme Court held that the officers’ city employers may be liable under the scope-of-employment rule, traditionally called respondent superior, and that the rule’s common-carrier exception does not apply. Plaintiffs brought civil actions against Fort Wayne and Evansville, the city employers of the police officers. Both Plaintiffs claimed vicarious liability under the rule of responder superior and the common-carrier exception, which imposes a more stringent standard of care on certain enterprises. The trial court granted summary judgment for the cities on the common-carrier issue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a city does not, under respondent superior, escape liability as a matter of law for a sexual assault by a police officer; and (2) relationships between the cities and the women in these cases do not fall within the common-carrier exception. View "Cox v. Evansville Police Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s wrongful termination complaint against the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and that Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that the Department violated the whistleblower provision of the Indiana False Claims and Whistleblower Protection Act, Ind. Code 5-11-5.5. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint, holding (1) the State did not waived sovereign immunity in this case because the whistleblower provision of the Act does not clearly evince the legislature’s intention to subject the State for violations of the Act; but (2) the dismissal should have been without prejudice to Plaintiff filing an amended complaint. View "Esserman v. Indiana Department of Environmental Management" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reaffirmed the holding in Tindall v. Enderle, 320 N.E.2d 764 (Ind. 1974), which established that when an employer admits that an employee was acting within the course and scope of his or her employment, absent special circumstances, the employer may only be held liable under the doctrine of respondent superior, and negligent hiring claims are precluded. Amanda Parker was killed while she was delivering pizzas for 2JR Pizza Enterprises, LLC (Pizza Hut). Hamblin’s Estate filed a wrongful death suit against Pizza Hut, alleging that Hamblin’s death was directly and proximately caused by Pizza Hut’s negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision of Parker and that Pizza Hut was liable for Parker’s negligence under the doctrine of respondent superior. The trial court granted partial summary judgment dismissing the Estate’s negligent hiring claim because it admitted Parker was acting within the course and scope of her employment, thus allowing only the negligence claim under the doctrine of respondent superior to proceed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that respondent superior and negligent hiring claims may not be brought simultaneously when an employer admits that an employee was acting with the course and scope of his or her employment. View "Sedam v. 2JR Pizza Enterprises, LLC" on Justia Law

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When an individual reported child abuse, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) told the reporter that his report was confidential. The Department however, released the report without redacting the identity of the reporter. The reporter and his family sued DCS for negligently disclosing the reporter’s identity, claiming that the statute requiring DCS to protect reporter identity - Ind. Code 31-33-18-2 (section 2) - implies a private right of action and that DCS created a common-law duty of confidentiality. The trial court granted summary judgment for DCS. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that DCS owed Plaintiffs a common-law “private duty” based on a hotline worker’s “promise” of confidentiality. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals decision, and held (1) section 2 provides no private right of action; and (2) there is no common law basis to impose a duty on DCS. View "John Doe #1 v. Indiana Department of Child Services" on Justia Law