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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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