$479K judgment against Crown Point grocer in slip-and-fall case upheld

A jury verdict for a woman who was seriously injured in a fall on a snow-covered sidewalk outside a Crown Point grocery store was upheld Friday by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Jane Jones sustained significant injuries when she slipped and fell outside the Wiseway Market in February 2014. She sued in May 2015, ultimately dismissing Wiseway and naming as defendants its corporate entity Pioneer Retail, property management company Emmes Realty Services LLC and contracted snow removal company DLC Landscape and Snow Removal.

After the trial court denied both plaintiff and defense motions for summary judgment, a jury in December 2019 ruled in Jones’ favor, awarding her damages of more than $1.437 million. Finding Pioneer to be 25% at fault, the jury ordered Pioneer to pay $479,062.50 in damages.

On appeal, Pioneer asserted that the trial court erred by denying its motion for summary judgment because it owed no duty to Jones — an argument the COA rejected in Pioneer Retail, LLC D/B/A Wiseway Foods v. Jane Jones, et al., 20A-CT-00083.

Indiana caselaw directly contradicts Pioneer’s central argument as to why it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. It is well established that Pioneer, as a business entity, has a duty of care to its invitees,” now Senior Judge John Baker wrote for the court, citing Lutheran Hosp. of Ind., Inc. v. Blaser, 634 N.E.2d 864, 868 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994).

“Therefore, as a matter of law, Pioneer owed some duty of care to Jones as an invitee. And the fact that Gateway is the landlord of the property and contracted with DLC to clear ice and snow does not summarily absolve Pioneer of liability regarding its duty of care to its invitees. Notwithstanding the lease, the surveillance footage, or the actions and testimony of Pioneer’s or DLC’s individual employees, Indiana law leads us to but one conclusion: that the trial court did not err when it denied Pioneer’s motion for summary judgment.”

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