Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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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

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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

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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

Posted in: Personal Injury

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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

Posted in: Personal Injury

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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

Posted in: Personal Injury

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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