ILNews

Justices overturn judgment in trampoline case

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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In a case of first impression involving a trampoline, premises liability, and the attractive-nuisance doctrine, the Indiana Supreme Court today overturned summary judgment that originally had been in favor of the trampoline owners, citing material issues of facts in the case.

The high court granted transfer in Beth Palmer Kopczynski, individually and as next friend and parent of Alisha Palmer, and Alisha Palmer v. David Bryan Barger and Peggy Lucas Barger, No. 88S05-0710-CV-423, to determine whether the Bargers were responsible for an injury Alisha Palmer suffered while using their trampoline without adult supervision.

Alisha, who was home alone with her brothers, was asked if she wanted to jump on the Bargers' trampoline by the Bargers' 6-year-old son, Bryan, who was also unsupervised at the time. Alisha, who had never been on a trampoline, hurt her knee while jumping on it with several other children. Alisha and her mother, Beth Kopczynski, filed a complaint against the Bargers alleging premises liability and liability for an attractive nuisance. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Bargers, which the Court of Appeals affirmed. The COA held Alisha was a trespasser and there was no evidence of willful or wanton conduct of the Bargers. The appellate court also held the plaintiffs failed to establish that the trampoline was dangerous or attractive to children or that the Bargers knew children would trespass and be injured.

On both counts, the Supreme Court found material issues of fact and reversed the summary judgment in favor of the Bargers. Whether Alisha had reason to know Bryan didn't have actual authority to invite her onto the property and to use the trampoline is a factual question, wrote Justice Theodore Boehm.

Comparing the trampoline to an unenclosed junkyard, the justices ruled the trampoline may be considered an attractive nuisance, but that is also a question of material fact to be determined by the trial court. The Bargers argued Alisha, who was 12 at the time of the incident, was old enough to understand the dangers of using a trampoline; they had no reason to suspect she would trespass; and that trampolines pose no particular attraction to children.

The evidence is conflicting as to whether Alisha understood the dangers of using a trampoline, especially when there were other jumpers on it at the same time. The Bargers admitted they had chased off other children using the trampoline before and hadn't shown "that it is unreasonable to assume that children would be attracted to a large trampoline that sits in the middle of an open yard, particularly when there is an unsupervised child regularly jumping on it," Justice Boehm wrote.

The high court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.
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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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