No summary judgment in mailbox case

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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.


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  1. Great observation Smith. By my lights, speaking personally, they already have. They counted my religious perspective in a pro-life context as a symptom of mental illness and then violated all semblance of due process to banish me for life from the Indiana bar. The headline reveals the truth of the Hoosier elite's animus. Details here: Denied 2016 petition for cert (this time around): (“2016Pet”) Amicus brief 2016: (“2016Amici”) As many may recall, I was banned for five years for failing to "repent" of my religious views on life and the law when a bar examiner demanded it of me, resulting in a time out to reconsider my "clinging." The time out did not work, so now I am banned for life. Here is the five year time out order: Denied 2010 petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): (“2010Pet”) Read this quickly if you are going to read it, the elites will likely demand it be pulled down or pile comments on to bury it. (As they have buried me.)

  2. if the proabortion zealots and intolerant secularist anti-religious bigots keep on shutting down every hint of religious observance in american society, or attacking every ounce of respect that the state may have left for it, they may just break off their teeth.

  3. "drug dealers and traffickers need to be locked up". "we cannot afford just to continue to build prisons". "drug abuse is strangling many families and communities". "establishing more treatment and prevention programs will also be priorities". Seems to be what politicians have been saying for at least three decades now. If these are the most original thoughts these two have on the issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse, then we're no closer to solving the problem than we were back in the 90s when crack cocaine was the epidemic. We really need to begin demanding more original thought from those we elect to office. We also need to begin to accept that each of us is part of the solution to a problem that government cannot solve.

  4. What is with the bias exclusion of the only candidate that made sense, Rex Bell? The Democrat and Republican Party have created this problem, why on earth would anyone believe they are able to fix it without pushing government into matters it doesn't belong?

  5. This is what happens when daddy hands over a business to his moron son and thinks that everything will be ok. this bankruptcy is nothing more than Gary pulling the strings to never pay the creditors that he and his son have ripped off. they are scum and they know it.