Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana
by
In June 2020, a fire broke out at a warehouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Richard Dolsen, a professional firefighter, responded to the scene. While navigating through the smoke-filled, dark warehouse, Dolsen fell through an unguarded opening above a basement stairwell, sustaining injuries to his neck and right arm. The warehouse was owned by Sweet Real Estate – City Center, LLC, and leased to VeoRide, Inc., which stored electric scooters and other equipment on the premises. Dolsen sued both companies, alleging negligence in failing to fix the wall opening and in failing to warn the fire department of the hazard.The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of VeoRide and Sweet, holding that Dolsen's claims were barred under the firefighter's rule, which limits a firefighter's ability to recover damages for injuries sustained while responding to a fire. Dolsen appealed the ruling only as to VeoRide, and the court of appeals reversed the trial court's decision, holding that the firefighter's rule did not bar Dolsen's claim against VeoRide.The Indiana Supreme Court granted VeoRide's petition to transfer the case. The court clarified that the firefighter's rule and the first-responder's rule are two separate doctrines. The firefighter's rule applies only to firefighters and prescribes the duty owed for a premises-liability claim arising when a firefighter enters premises to extinguish a fire. The first-responder's rule limits the duty owed to all first responders during an emergency.In this case, the court held that the first-responder's rule did not bar Dolsen's claim as he did not allege that the negligence that caused his injuries also caused the fire. As for the firefighter's rule, the court found that disputed factual issues remained on whether VeoRide breached its duty to Dolsen. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court's entry of summary judgment for VeoRide and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Dolsen v. Veoride, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Abigail Fricke filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy petition, which required her to disclose all her assets, including any lawsuits. Three years later, she filed a lawsuit against Red Lobster, alleging she was injured due to the restaurant's negligence. However, she did not update her bankruptcy asset schedule to include this lawsuit until after Red Lobster moved for summary judgment based on standing and judicial estoppel. The trial court denied Red Lobster's summary judgment motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.Red Lobster argued that Fricke lacked standing to sue because her personal injury claim was an asset that belonged to her bankruptcy estate rather than to her. The Indiana Supreme Court disagreed, stating that Fricke had standing to sue because she alleged a demonstrable injury allegedly caused by Red Lobster. The court clarified that while Fricke was improperly pursuing the claim on her own behalf rather than on behalf of the bankruptcy estate, this meant she was not the real party in interest, not that she lacked standing.Red Lobster also argued that judicial estoppel barred Fricke's claim. The court disagreed, stating that judicial estoppel did not apply when the bankruptcy court permits a plaintiff-debtor to cure their omission by amending their asset schedule to include a previously omitted lawsuit. The court found that Fricke did not mislead the bankruptcy court and did not prevail on a position in her bankruptcy proceedings that contradicts her claim in this state court negligence action. Therefore, her representations to the bankruptcy court did not judicially estop her from pursuing her personal injury claim against Red Lobster. The court affirmed the trial court's decision. View "Red Lobster Restaurants, LLC v. Fricke" on Justia Law

by
Six patients filed medical malpractice actions against the estate and practice of a deceased physician, alleging that the physician breached the standard of care. The patients submitted various materials to medical review panels, including a wrongful death complaint filed by the physician's wife in a separate malpractice action. The defendants petitioned the trial court to redact the wife's complaint and any mention of its contents from the patients' submissions. The trial court granted the petition.The case was appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court's decision. The patients then petitioned for transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the lower courts' decisions. The court concluded that trial courts do not have the authority to act as gatekeeper of the evidence a party submits to a medical review panel. The court also held that the third-party complaint in this case is evidence, and therefore, the trial court lacked the authority to order the patients to redact their submissions. The case was remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Bojko v. Anonymous Physician" on Justia Law

by
A fatal car crash led to a lawsuit against two Indiana restaurants that had served alcohol to the intoxicated driver responsible for the accident. The estate of the deceased sued the restaurants for negligence, arguing that they should have known the driver was visibly intoxicated and should not have allowed him to drive. The restaurants argued that the Indiana Dram Shop Act, which provides civil liability for establishments that serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated individuals who later cause injuries, eliminated any independent common-law liability. Therefore, they contended that the negligence claim should be dismissed.The Indiana Supreme Court held that the Dram Shop Act did not eliminate common-law liability, but rather modified it. The court ruled that claims against establishments that serve alcohol must still satisfy the requirements of the Dram Shop Act, namely that the server must have actual knowledge of the individual's visible intoxication, and that the individual's intoxication must be a proximate cause of the injury or damage. The court found that the estate's negligence claim met these requirements and therefore, the negligence claim was valid and could proceed. The court affirmed the lower court's decision to deny the restaurants' motion to dismiss the negligence claim. View "WEOC v. Adair" on Justia Law

by
Edward Zaragoza, an inmate suffering from hypothyroidism, filed a lawsuit against three prison physicians and their employer. Zaragoza claimed that the doctors' treatment decisions, specifically their refusal to provide alternative medication despite the severe side effects he experienced from the prescribed medication, amounted to medical malpractice and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The Indiana Supreme Court found that Zaragoza's expert's affidavit, which challenged the doctors' treatment decisions, was both admissible and substantively sufficient to create an issue of fact in the malpractice case. The court also found that there were disputes over whether the doctors knowingly failed to offer Zaragoza a potentially safer alternative medication. Thus, the court ruled that summary judgment was not warranted and reversed the trial court's decision, allowing Zaragoza's claims to proceed to trial. The court emphasized that summary judgment is not a summary trial and that genuine issues of material fact remained to be determined by a factfinder after a trial. View "Zaragoza v. Wexford of Indiana, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Indiana Supreme Court dealt with a medical malpractice case where Penny Korakis sued two doctors and a hospital for injuries she sustained from an automobile accident. The central issue was whether the state's summary-judgment standard required a medical expert to expressly state the applicable standard of care in his affidavit. The Indiana Supreme Court held that the applicable standard of care may be inferred from the content of the affidavit, provided it contains substantively sufficient information. The court also insisted that the affidavit must include a statement that the treatment fell below the standard of care.To apply this new rule, the court examined an affidavit by Dr. James E. Kemmler, who had testified about the malpractice case. The court found that Dr. Kemmler's credentials and detailed judgment about the case were sufficient to infer the standard of care. Moreover, Dr. Kemmler concluded in his affidavit that the treatment received by Korakis fell below the standard of care. As a result, the court determined that his affidavit created a genuine issue of material fact about the alleged breach of the standard of care by one of the doctors, Dr. Michael R. Messmer. The court therefore reversed the summary judgment for Dr. Messmer. However, it affirmed the summary judgment for the other doctor and the hospital, concluding that they were entitled to summary judgment. View "Korakis v. Memorial Hospital of South Bend" on Justia Law

by
The case revolves around injury suffered by a swimmer, Dr. Jennifer Pennington, who collided with the corner of a swimming-pool wall at a health and fitness center owned and operated by Memorial Hospital of South Bend, doing business as Beacon Health and Fitness. The design and construction of the swimming pool was carried out by Spear Corporation and Panzica Building Corporation. The Penningtons filed a suit against Beacon, Spear, and Panzica, alleging negligent design, failure to warn, negligent maintenance and operation, negligent construction, and deprivation of companionship due to the injury. The trial court granted summary judgment to Panzica and Spear on all counts and to Beacon on some counts, but denied summary judgment to Beacon on the count of negligent maintenance and operation and failure to provide adequate warnings and instructions. The Indiana Supreme Court held that Beacon was not entitled to summary judgment on any count, except as to the single issue of the level of the water within Count III. The court affirmed summary judgment for Spear and Panzica, stating that the Penningtons failed to provide admissible evidence regarding Spear or Panzica's breach of their professional duty of care. However, the court found that there were issues of fact regarding Beacon's role in the pool’s design and its maintenance and operation that required a trial. View "Pennington v. Memorial Hospital of South Bend, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on her claims against Defendant, a hospital who mailed a letter containing Plaintiff's private health matter to a third party who posted the letter to social media, holding that genuine issues of material fact remained.Plaintiff filed suit against a hospital alleging that it invaded her privacy by publicly disclosing her private information and negligently failed to maintain the confidentiality of her information. The trial court granted summary judgment for the hospital. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Defendant was not entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's privacy claim because the hospital did not negate the public-disclosure tort's publicity element; (2) Defendant was entitled to partial summary judgment on Plaintiff's negligence claim; and (3) genuine issues of material fact remained as to whether Plaintiff's pecuniary damages were recoverable and whether Defendant was the proximate cause of those damages. View "Z.D. v. Community Health Network, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing a Monroe County action with prejudice and denying Appellant's motions to correct error and to amend her complaint, holding that a plaintiff seeking tort damages from both government and non-government defendants must sue all such tortfeasors in one lawsuit.Plaintiff sustained injuries while driving in an I-69 construction zone. Plaintiff obtained a judgment against a non-government defendant in Lake County to satisfy the requirements for obtaining insurance coverage. After Plaintiff and the insurer settled her insurance claims Plaintiff again sued for the same injuries, this time in the Monroe Circuit Court against six other defendants, both government and non-government. The trial court dismissed the action with prejudice, concluding that collateral estoppel and claim splitting barred Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court was correct in dismissing Plaintiff's action on issue preclusion grounds; and (2) Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on her remaining claims of error. View "Davidson v. State" on Justia Law

by
In this interlocutory appeal the Supreme Court declined to adopt the apex doctrine, which can prevent parties from deposing top-level corporate executives absent the requesting party making certain initial showings, holding that remand was required for the trial court to consider a motion for a protective order with the benefit of guidance set forth in this opinion.Plaintiffs sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) alleging that despite being aware of the consequences of repetitive head trauma, the NCAA failed to implement reasonable concussion-management protocols to protect its athletes, causing three former college football players to die from a neurodegenerative disease linked to repetitive head trauma. The NCAA moved twice for a protective order to prevent Plaintiffs from deposing three of its high-ranking executives. After the trial court denied the motions the NCAA sought discretionary interlocutory review, inviting the Supreme Court to adopt the apex doctrine. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) this appeal was properly before the Court; and (2) although the Court declines to adopt the apex doctrine, it establishes a framework that harmonizes its principles with the applicable trial rules to aid courts in determining whether good cause exists to prohibit or limit the deposition of a top-level official in a large organization. View "National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n v. Finnerty" on Justia Law