Divided appeals panel finds for restaurant in slip-and-fall case

An Indianapolis restaurant that appealed the denial of summary judgment in a woman’s slip-and-fall case won a divided ruling Monday when two of three members of an Indiana Court of Appeals panel sided with the eatery.

The majority reversed in Cooper’s Hawk Indianapolis, LLC d/b/a Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant v. Katherine Ray, 20A-CT-127, and granted summary judgment for the restaurant.

The case began after Katherine Ray slipped and fell on what she claims was a puddle of water outside the restroom on the ceramic tile floor of the northside establishment. She was injured and sued, asserting multiple claims of negligence. The Marion Superior Court denied Cooper’s Hawk’s motion for summary judgment and its later motion to correct error.

In overturning the trial court and ruling for Cooper’s Hawk, the majority of Judge Elaine Brown and Judge Edward Najam pointed to evidence in the record that it had been raining the day of Ray’s fall and that neither she nor restaurant employees had noticed any water accumulation on the floor beforehand.

“In summary, the designated evidence reveals that Katherine did not know what caused her fall. To the extent the evidence indicates that some wetness was present on the floor at some point, we note that it was raining and these observations regarding wetness occurred only after EMTs arrived,” Brown wrote for the majority. “… In light of the designated evidence, we conclude that the trial court erred in denying the motion for summary judgment filed by Cooper’s Hawk.”

But Judge James Kirsch dissented and would have affirmed the trial court. He noted both EMTs and Ray’s fiance said the floor outside the restroom had been wet and that Katherine’s jeans were wet after her fall.

“The parties’ statements are contradictory. It is the role of the trial court, not the appellate court, to determine credibility. The trial court found that there are questions of fact which render summary judgment inappropriate. I agree and would affirm the trial court’s ruling and remand for trial on the merits of this dispute,” Kirsch wrote.

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