Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana

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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

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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

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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

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Police officer Dwayne Runnels suffered serious injuries after he was shot by Demetrious Martin. Martin, a convicted felon who could not legally purchase or possess a firearm, received the firearm by Tarus Blackburn, who made a “straw purchase” for the firearm from KS&E Sports. Runnels filed a complaint against KS&E; Blackburn; and Edward Ellis, a KS&E officer, director, and shareholder. KS&E and Ellis moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Ind. Code 34-12-3-3(2) granted them immunity. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Runnel’s negligence, piercing-the-corporate-veil, and civil-conspiracy claims, which demand only money damages, must be dismissed because section 34-12-3-3(2) functions as a limited immunity statute that insulates KS&E from suits for “recovery of damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm…by a third party”; (2) the statute does not immunize KS&E from Runnel’s public-nuisance claim seeking equitable relief; and (3) the statute is not preempted by federal law and does not violate either the state or federal Constitution. View "KS&E Sports v. Runnels" on Justia Law

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In Pfenning v. Lineman, the Supreme Court established that Indiana courts do not referee disputes arising from ordinary sports activity. The Court further held that, as a matter of law, when a sports participant injuries someone while engaging in conduct ordinary in the sport, and without intent or recklessness, the participant does not breach a duty. In this case, during a karate class drill, Defendant jump-kicked a bag, injuring Plaintiff, who was holding the bag. Plaintiff sued, alleging that Defendant negligently, recklessly, and unreasonably injured her. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that, under Pfenning, Defendant breached no duty as a matter of law because the jump kick was “ordinary behavior” within the sport of karate generally. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thereby vacating the decision of the court of appeals, and affirmed summary judgment, holding (1) under Pfenning, ordinary conduct in the sport turns on the sport generally, not the specific activity; and (2) because Defendant’s jump kick was ordinary conduct in the sport of karate generally and no evidence showed intent or recklessness, there was no breach as a matter of law. View "Megenity v. Dunn" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Carlton Curry was appointed as superintendent of Lawrence Utilities, the City of Lawrence’s municipally owned water and sewer utility. Just over two years later, Dean Jessup was elected as mayor of the City in the general election. Mayor Jessup terminated Curry after their differences in policy became apparent. Curry filed a complaint against the City, claiming he was wrongfully discharged under the utility superintendent statute, he was owned unpaid wages under the Wage Payment Statute, and the mayor tortiously interfered with his employment contract. The trial court (1) granted summary judgment in favor of Curry on the wrongful discharge claim, (2) granted summary judgment in favor of the City on the Wage Payment Statute claim, and (3) denied summary judgment on the tortious interference claim. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court in all respects, holding (1) Mayor Jessup lacked authority to remove Curry as the utility service board superintendent; (2) Curry was not entitled to wages under the Wage Payment Statute; and (3) a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding Curry’s claim for intentional interference with an employment relationship. View "City of Lawrence Utilites Service Board v. Curry" on Justia Law

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Angela Martin and Brian Brothers co-hosted a house party at which alcohol was served. As the party was winding down, Brothers and two guests, Jerry Chambers and Paul Michalik, got into a fistfight. Martin found Michalik lying motionless on the basement floor and Chambers with blood on his face. The police later found Michalik dead outside the home. The personal representative of Michalik’s estate and Chambers’s bankruptcy trustee filed a complaint against Martin, alleging, in part, that she negligently caused Michalik’s injuries and that she furnished alcohol in violation of Indiana’s Dram Shop Act. The trial court granted Martin’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) summary judgment on the negligence claim was improper, as there remained a question of fact as to whether Martin breached the landowner-invitee duty to exercise reasonable care for Michalik’s protection while he was on her premises; and (2) summary judgment was appropriate on Plaintiffs’ Dram Shop Act claim because Martin jointly paid for and possessed the same beer, and therefore, Martin could not “furnish” it to Brothers under the Act. View "Rogers v. Martin" on Justia Law

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After a shooting that occurred at a bar, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against the bar alleging negligence. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the bar, concluding that the shooter’s criminal acts were unforeseeable, and therefore, the bar had no duty to anticipate and take steps to prevent the shooter’s conduct. The court of appeals reversed, declaring that reasonable foreseeability was not part of the analysis with respect to the bar’s duty. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) the trial court in this case employed a now-discarded analytical tool in determining the question of foreseeability; (2) in a negligence action, where foreseeability is an element of duty, this necessarily means the court must determine the question of foreseeability as a matter of law and must engage in a general analysis of the broad type of plaintiff and harm involved without regard to the facts of the actual occurrence; and (3) the trial court properly granted summary judgment in the bar’s favor because a shooting inside a neighborhood bar is not foreseeable as a matter of law. View "Goodwin v. Yeakle's Sports Bar & Grill, Inc" on Justia Law

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Defendant negligently struck Plaintiff’s vehicle, causing Plaintiff injuries that required medical treatment. Defendant admitted she was liable for the accident but contested the reasonable value of Plaintiff’s medical care. Before a trial on damages, Plaintiff moved to prevent the jury from hearing evidence that her providers accepted a reduced amount as payment in full. The trial court concluded that the payments were not permitted by Stanley v. Walker, in which the Supreme Court interpreted Indiana’s collateral-source statute to permit a defendant in a personal-injury suit to introduce discounted reimbursements negotiated between the plaintiff’s medical providers and his or her private health insurer, so long as insurance is not referenced. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the rationale of Stanley v. Walker applies equally to reimbursements by government payers; and (2) the trial court misinterpreted Stanley by holding that the collateral-source statute required the exclusion of accepted reimbursements from government payers. Remanded. View "Patchett v. Lee" on Justia Law

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Carol Jakubowicz and her two minor sons were involved in a car accident with Ronald Williams that resulted in injuries to the Jakubowiczs. Jakubowicz filed suit on behalf of herself and her sons against Williams. More than three years after the accident, Jakubowicz filed a motion for leave to amend her complaint and add an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim against State Farm, the Jakubowiczs’ insurer, stating that she believed Williams’ insurance policy would be insufficient to cover her damages. The trial court granted Jakubowicz’s motion for leave to amend. State Farm moved for summary judgment on the UIM claim, claiming it was barred because it was filed after the three-year limitation period in Jakubowicz’s insurance policy. The trial court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the provision in the policy requiring an insured to bring suit within three years is in direct conflict with the policy’s requirement that State Farm will only pay if the underinsured motorist’s insurance has been exhausted, the policy is ambiguous and must be construed in favor of the insured. Remanded. View "State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Jakubowicz" on Justia Law