ILNews

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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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