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COA reverses judgment for apartment manager in negligence case

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In ruling on a slip-and-fall case involving injury occurring in an apartment complex parking lot during the winter, the Indiana Court of Appeals noted that there are not any Indiana cases with an identical fact pattern, so they looked to a similar Missouri case for guidance.

In Brenda Bell v. Grandville Cooperative, Inc., et al., No. 49A04-1101-CT-2, Brenda Bell appealed the summary judgment in favor of Grandville Cooperative and Kirkpatrick Management Co. in her personal injury negligence action against Grandville. Bell went to her daughter’s apartment complex around 4 p.m. Feb. 21, 2007, to babysit her grandchild. The apartment was owned and managed by Grandville. Piles of snow had been melting during the day and refreezing at night for several days, including the area where Bell parked. The management knew of the issue and checked out areas for ice, but did not see any ice in the area Bell parked around 5 p.m.

That night, when Bell was leaving the complex, she fell on ice by her car and was injured.

The COA judges cited various cases involving negligence and weather-related injuries, but none of those cases contained similar facts as the instant case. In this case, there was an established pattern of ice forming in the apartment complex for several days, but the managers did nothing to counteract the possibility of ice forming between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Citing Braun v. George C. Doering Inc., 937 S.W.2d 371, 373 (Mo. Ct. App. 1995), a very similar case out of Missouri, the Indiana judges concluded that there is a question of fact as to whether Grandville breached its duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. In the Missouri case, the court held that defendants can’t avoid liability by simply claiming they had no actual knowledge that the particular piece of ice the plaintiff stepped on had formed that evening.

“In other words, there is a question of fact as to whether Grandville had actual or constructive knowledge of a dangerous condition on the premises — which does not require that they knew of the actual formation of the ice patch Bell slipped upon — and whether it acted reasonably in response to such knowledge,” wrote Judge Michael Barnes.

The judges were also not prepared to say as a matter of law that an apartment complex’s duty to maintain safe premises only runs during the regular working hours of the complex’s maintenance staff. They reversed summary judgment for Grandville and remanded for further proceedings.

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  1. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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