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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. For many years this young man was "family" being my cousin's son. Then he decided to ignore my existence and that of my daughter who was very hurt by his actions after growing up admiring, Jason. Glad he is doing well, as for his opinion, if you care so much you wouldn't ignore the feelings of those who cared so much about you for years, Jason.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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