ILNews

Summary judgment inappropriate in slip-and-fall case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals stopped short Wednesday of saying in a negligence suit involving a slip and fall that under any circumstance a home detention officer visiting a detainee at his place of employment is a business visitor.

In Isaiah Christmas v. Kindred Nursing Centers Limited Partnership d/b/a Windsor Estates Health and Rehabilitation Center, No. 34A05-1101-CT-1, home detention officer Isaiah Christmas sued Windsor Estates Health and Rehabilitation Center after he slipped on ice on the sidewalk in front of the employee entrance. Christmas was there to visit a detainee who was on house arrest but worked at Windsor. Christmas had previously been given the code to enter through the employee entrance. He was not required to visit the detainee at her place of employment to check on her, but can do so if employers don’t object.

After his fall, Christmas sued Windsor claiming injuries and negligent maintenance of the sidewalk. A hearing was set on Windsor’s motion for summary judgment, but the trial court cancelled the hearing the day before it was scheduled and notified it would rule on the parties’ briefs and designated evidence. The trial court ruled in Windsor’s favor, finding that Christmas was not an invitee, so Windsor didn’t owe him any duty.

Christmas later filed motions to correct error and for a hearing, which was denied. On appeal, he argued the trial court erred on procedural grounds when it entered summary judgment without a hearing. But Indiana Trial Rule 56(C) says that a court may conduct a hearing on a summary judgment motion, but doesn’t have to unless one of the parties requests a hearing. Christmas never requested the hearing nor did he take any action after learning the trial court intended to rule on the filings, wrote Judge Carr Darden.

Turning to the issue of summary judgment in favor of Windsor, the judges found there to be a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Christmas was invited to enter Windsor’s premises. Christmas maintained he was a business visitor at the time of his fall, citing Section 332 and comment (e) of the Restatement (Second) of Torts.

The fact that a detention officer is permitted on the premises doesn’t make him an invitee, wrote the judge. But, someone provided a special access code to Christmas and Windsor didn’t designate any evidence to show that such a provision was unapproved. A trier of fact could infer that Christmas was invited to enter Windsor’s premises.

There is also a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Windsor breached its duty of care regarding the condition of the sidewalk and protecting Christmas against danger. The appellate court remanded for further proceedings.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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