Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing this action brought by the Board of Commissioners of Union County (Union County) seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction against the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Department itself (collectively, INDOT). In the action, Union County alleged that INDOT was negligent in its highway repair efforts, causing damage to the septic systems of three landowners in Union County. The trial court granted INDOT's motion to dismiss, concluding that Union County did not have standing to sue INDOT for injury done to its residents. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in dismissing the action because Union County failed to plead any viable theory of standing to support its alleged cause of action. View "Board of Commissioners of Union County v. McGuinness" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed a personal injury case arising out of an automobile collision. At trial, Plaintiffs introduced into evidence Defendant’s prior alcohol-related driving convictions. The jury returned a verdict for Plaintiffs. Defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of his prior criminal convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the evidence of Defendant’s prior alcohol-related driving offenses was relevant and potentially admissible for a limited purpose; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of Defendant’s 1983 and 1996 alcohol-related traffic offenses; and (3) the compensatory damages award and the punitive damages award were supported by the evidence and were not excessive. View "Sims v. Pappas" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the Open Courts Clause of the Indiana Constitution allows unauthorized immigrants to pursue claims for decreased earning capacity damages in a tort action. The Court then provided an evidentiary framework for determining when that plaintiff’s unauthorized immigration status is admissible at trial. The trial court in this personal injury case allowed evidence of Plaintiff’s immigration status and excluded testimony calculating Plaintiff’s decreased lifetime earning capacity due to his injury as unreliable for failing to account for Plaintiff’s immigration status. The Supreme Court reversed, provided the framework for addressing when immigration status is admissible in a decreased earning capacity tort claim, and remanded for the trial court to apply this framework. View "Escamilla v. Shiel Sexton Co." on Justia Law

by
TCI Architects (TCI) entered into an agreement with Gander Mountain to serve as the general contractor on a construction project. TCI subcontracted with Craft Mechanical, which subcontracted with B.A. Romines Sheet Metal (Romines) to perform heating and ventilation work for the project. Michael Ryan, an employee of Romines, sustained serious bodily injuries while working at the Gander Mountain construction site. Ryan filed a complaint for damages for the injuries sustained, naming TCI and Craft as defendants. The trial court granted summary judgment for TCI. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the contract between TCI and Gander Mountain did not create a duty. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thereby vacating the court of appeals’ opinion, and reversed, holding that TCI affirmatively demonstrated an intent to assume a non-delegable duty of care toward Ryan by entering into a contract containing language that required TCI to assume responsibility for implementing and monitoring safety precautions and programs for all individuals working on the site and by agreeing to designate a safety representative to supervise the implementing and monitoring. Remanded. View "Ryan v. TCI Architects/Engineers/Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law