Justices to hear product liability, juvenile firearms cases

On Thursday, the Indiana Supreme Court will hear oral argument regarding injury-related product liability and juvenile firearms cases.

First at 9 a.m., justices will hear the appeal in the case of a juvenile found delinquent for offenses that would be dangerous possession of a firearm and carrying a handgun without a license if committed by an adult.

After a factfinding hearing, the Marion Superior Court found 16-year-old J.R. delinquent on both counts in J.R. v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1704-JV-754. The Court of Appeals affirmed the admission of evidence about the handgun found on J.R. by police and his adjudication for dangerous possession of a firearm. However, it vacated the adjudication for carrying a handgun without a license after concluding that offense can only be committed by adults and cannot underlie a juvenile delinquency adjudication.

“A person under the age of eighteen, such as J.R., who possesses a handgun for any unauthorized reason commits, and only commits, dangerous possession of a firearm,” Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John Baker wrote.

Afterward, at 9:45 a.m. Thursday, the court will hear argument in a product-liability case involving a man who lost his eye and suffered other facial injuries when an attachment on an air-powered tool he was using disintegrated and a piece struck his face.

Paul Johnson, an experienced tool user, bought and used a handheld tool advertised as the Grinder, designed and sold by Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Fetzer Company. The tool does not come with a safety guard but warns users to wear safety glasses and ear protection while in use. At the time of use, Johnson was wearing prescription glasses, but not safety glasses.

After Johnson filed a product liability suit, the trial court determined Campbell Hausfeld had established misuse as a matter of law due to Johnson’s failure to wear safety glasses. Summary judgment was granted to the company on Johnson’s defective design claim. However, the trial court denied summary judgment regarding the failure to warn claim.

But the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court improperly granted summary judgment on the defective design claim in Campbell Hausfeld/Scott Fetzer Company v. Paul Johnson, 64A03-1705-CT-984.

On appeal, Campbell Hausfeld argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on both claims, while Johnson contends that neither claim warrants summary judgment.

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