Supreme Court: City not immune from injury suit

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled a city did not meet the requirements of the Indiana Tort Claims Act, and as such does not have immunity in a suit filed by a woman who fell in a city street and broke her leg.

Cathy Beloat was crossing Main Street in Beech Grove when she stepped out of the crosswalk slightly to get around a car that was sitting in it. As she did, she stepped in a deep hole and as a result broke her leg. She brought a claim for her injuries but Beech Grove claimed immunity within the ITCA and filed for summary judgment. The trial court denied the city’s summary judgment motion but the Indiana Court of Appeals approved it. The Supreme Court granted transfer, vacating the COA decision.

Under the ITCA, a city can claim immunity if it can prove the maintenance of part of a street was neglected because a full reconstruction will be underway shortly. However, the Supreme Court said Beech Grove did not do that.

Beech Grove submitted a mayor’s affidavit which said Beech Grove had been planning a reconstruction of Main Street, and what it would consist of. However, the affidavit did not include a cost-benefit analysis that occurred in order to determine a total reconstruction project was preferable, or how the city determined what repairs would be included.

Beech Grove also submitted minutes from city council and board of works meetings which shows members at times discussing a street renovation project, and engaging in some discussion about financial cost. However, because this is a summary judgment case, the Supreme Court is forced to make all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, which is Beloat. There was no actual cost-benefit analysis done and approval of financing is not enough.

The Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court for more proceedings.

The case is City of Beech Grove v. Cathy J. Beloat, 49S02-1604-CT-165.

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