ILNews

No summary judgment in mailbox case

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The owners of a mailbox struck by a woman's car that left the road inexplicably aren't entitled to summary judgment on the woman's negligence claim, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed today.

There are many genuine issues of material fact in the case James and Erica Sparks v. Barbara and Chester White, No. 88A01-0804-CV-172, which makes the denial of the Sparkses' motion for summary judgment by the trial court correct, the appellate court ruled.

For some unknown reason, Barbara White's car crossed the center line in front of the Sparkses' house, left the road, and struck the Sparkses' brick mailbox support, which was three feet from the road. White was injured and she and her husband, Chester, filed a negligence suit claiming the Sparkses maintained "an unreasonably dangerous mailbox on their property."

The Sparkses contend they are entitled to summary judgment as to the duty and proximate cause elements in the tort of negligence. Citing Ousley v. Board of Commissioners of Fulton County, 734 N.E.2d 290, 293 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000), the Court of Appeals found a genuine issue of material fact in relationship between the distance of the mailbox from the road and whether the accident and injury could have been foreseen.

The location of the mailbox is to ease delivery of the Sparkses' mail, but there is evidence showing the mailbox is bigger and stronger than it needs to be, and may have created an unreasonable risk of harm to motorists, wrote Judge Patricia Riley. The appellate court also cited Goldsberry v. Grubbs, 672 N.E.2d 475 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996), which found it is foreseeable that motorists may leave the traveled portion of the road and strike utility poles along that route. As such, summary judgment wouldn't be appropriate to grant on the issue of duty, wrote the judge in the instant case.

There are also genuine issues of material fact regarding proximate cause, such as whether the Sparkses foresaw or should have foreseen Barbara would have left the road and hit their mailbox or that she would have been injured for hitting the mailbox.

These are questions for a jury to answer, wrote Judge Riley, and if a jury finds Barbara was more than 50 percent at fault for the injuries, the Whites won't be able to recover any damages under Indiana's comparative fault regime.

The Court of Appeals, finding this is not one of the rare negligence cases in which to grant summary judgment, remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

ADVERTISEMENT