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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. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

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