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. 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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