Appeals court reinstates trucker’s wrongful death suit

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A trial court erred in granting summary judgment for an axle manufacturer sued by the estate of a contract truck driver who died when a load fell on him in an accident that occurred while the facility was closed.

A panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals remanded to Wabash Circuit Judge Robert R. McCallen III Linda Huffman, Individually and as Personal Rep. of the Estate of Jerry Huffman, Deceased v. Dexter Axle Company & Evans Equipment Co., 85A02-1207-CT-586. The panel held that Dexter Axle Company owed a duty of reasonable care to Jerry Huffman as a business visitor who had permission to pick up loads even when the company was closed and no employees were present.

“As a matter of law, Dexter owed a duty to Huffman on the day of the accident. Genuine issues of material fact exist as to the remaining elements of Linda’s claim. We reverse and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings,” Judge Rudy Pyle III wrote in an opinion joined by Chief Judge Margaret Robb.

Judge Melissa May concurred in result but split with Pyle and Robb on their finding that the evidence demonstrates a genuine issue of material fact regarding breach of duty due to violation of OSHA regulations that may have led to the accident.

“I agree we should reverse summary judgment for Dexter for the reasons the majority states: Dexter owed Huffman, its invitee, a duty and there are fact issues as to breach and proximate cause,” May wrote in the concurring opinion. “However, I believe it is unnecessary, and therefore inappropriate, to address OSHA regulations, DOT regulations, the interpretation and application of those regulations, preemption, and congressional intent in this relatively straightforward premises liability case.”




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