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Trial court erred in instructing jury in negligence case

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A divided Indiana Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial in a case alleging a product was negligently designed, with the majority finding the trial court erred when it instructed the jury on the rebuttable presumption under Indiana Code 34-20-5-1.

Anthony Wade, an employee of Richmond Power, was rendered a quadriplegic in 1997 when he fell 12 feet out of a double-man bucket attached to a company truck when trying to exit the bucket. Two years later, he sued Terex-Telelect, the manufacturer of the bucket, claiming the company was negligent under the Indiana Products Liability Act in the design of the bucket. He argued that the company should not have been able to sell a bucket liner that contained no molded interior step.

Terex presented evidence that it complied with Richmond Power’s specifications for the product desired and that it was manufactured to meet the standards in place at the time of production. Wade made a motion for a directed verdict, arguing there was a lack of evidence to support the company’s claim that its product was in conformity with the generally recognized state of the art applicable to the safety of the product, and he objected to Terex’s tendered final jury instruction pertaining to the rebuttable presumption allowed under the act that a product is not defective if it was made state of the art and in compliance with government standards. Both motions were overruled and the trial court adopted the tendered instruction. The jury allocated zero fault to Terex and 100 percent fault to Wade.

In Anthony Wade v. Terex-Telelect, Inc., No. 29A05-1101-CT-72, Judges James Kirsch and Nancy Vaidik found Wade was prejudiced by the instruction of the jury as to the rebuttable presumption because it was unsupported by relevant evidence and went to the very heart of the case. Terex didn’t present sufficient evidence to support its contention that the liner at issue complied with applicable government regulations.

Judge Cale Bradford dissented on this point, disagreeing that the trial court abused its discretion in instructing the jury regarding the rebuttable presumption that a product is non-defective if it conforms to applicable government regulations.

The three judges agreed that Terex was not entitled to a “state of the art” instruction and that a retrial would be necessary based on this error.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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