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Summary judgment affirmed for semi-truck air supplier

November 17, 2017

The dangers presented by the placement of an air hose at a truck stop were known and obvious to a driver who fell and injured himself on the hose, making summary judgment to the owner and servicer of the hose appropriate, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

While driving a truck for the Linde Group, Marvin Podemski pulled into a Praxair, Inc. facility in East Chicago, where tripped on an air supply line and fell. Podemski filed a complaint against Praxair, alleging it was negligent for failing to maintain reasonably safe conditions on its premises.

Podemski then filed an amended complaint that added Antibus Scales & Systems, Inc., a company that services the scales at the Praxair facility, as a defendant. The amended complaint alleged Antibus had a duty to perform its work safely and to warn of any dangers it created.

Both defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment, while Podemski put forth his deposition, in which he claimed there was not enough light in the area where he was working, and that the setup of the supply line was not typical of what he saw there every day. Podemski also moved to publish the deposition of Mitchell Mullins, his coworker, one day before a scheduled hearing, but the St. Joseph Superior Court denied that motion.

The trial court then granted the motions for summary judgment, finding that the configuration of the air hose was not an unreasonable danger, but instead was “open and obvious to observation.” The court also noted Podemski designated only that the lighting was bad, not that he didn’t see the hose.

After his subsequent motion to correct error was denied, Podemski appealed in Marvin Podemski v. Praxair, Inc. and Antibus Scales & Systems, Inc., 71A03-1608-CT-1927. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s rulings Friday, with Judge Elaine Brown first writing the trial court did not err in denying Mullins’ deposition, considering the court had granted Podemski multiple extensions throughout the proceedings.

Brown then wrote the designated evidence – including Podemski’s lengthy experience as a truck driver and the fact that he stopped at the Praxair facility almost every day – established that the conditions presented by the air house and lighting were known and obvious.

“At the time of his fall, Podemski had been a truck driver for many years and had been at the Praxair facility roughly every day during these years prior to the time of his accident,” the judge wrote. “Podemski knew that the Praxair facility had not had lighting in the area of the hose for over five years, and he carried a flashlight in the truck which he used to ‘look around’ at other times.”

Brown also said Praxair and Antibus were not expected to know that Podemski would not discover or protect himself against that condition.

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