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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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