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Summary judgment affirmed for casino in collapsing chair suit

June 21, 2013

The manufacturer of a chair that came down on a patron’s leg as she sat on it appealed the denial of its summary judgment on the woman’s complaint, arguing the northern Indiana casino shouldn’t have been granted summary judgment. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Friday, but ordered more proceedings on Horseshoe Casino’s third-party complaint against Gasser Chair Co.

Marlene Nordengreen was at Horseshoe Casino when the chair she sat on while playing a slot machine collapsed down and hit the back of her leg, injuring her. The chair uses a gas cylinder for height adjustment, and the cylinder on her chair appeared to fail. The casino inspected the chairs daily, and Gasser gave Horseshoe no warning about what might happen if the gas cylinder failed.

In Gasser Chair Company, Inc. v. Marlene J. Nordengreen, Horseshoe Hammond, LLC, d/b/a Horseshoe Casino, 45A03-1210-CT-435, Gasser argued the trial court shouldn’t have granted summary judgment for the casino because it didn’t provide evidence the Gasser chair was the proximate cause of Nordengreen’s injury, the court didn’t apply the correct standard of care by Horseshoe to its invitees, and there were issues of fact as to Horseshoe’s knowledge of a defect on its premises.

“We decline to accept Gasser’s apparent premise that evidence of one element of a tort is necessarily required on summary judgment in order to negate a different element. Specifically, we decline to hold a premises owner’s knowledge of a dangerous condition on its premises cannot be determined without first knowing the dangerous condition was the ‘sole proximate cause’ of an injury,” Judge Melissa May wrote.

The trial court noted that other chairs at the casino had failed before the incident with Nordengreen and none of those problems caused injuries to patrons. Gasser didn’t demonstrate the casino had actual knowledge the chair was dangerous nor did it have constructive knowledge.

The judges ordered more proceedings on Horseshoe’s third-party complaint against Gasser alleging negligence, breach of contract and breach of warranty. The trial court in a footnote said by granting summary judgment for Horseshoe, it rendered moot the casino’s third-party complaint. But the breach of contract and breach of warranty claims remain, so the trial court should resolve these issues, the appeals court ruled.

 

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