Negligence suit against Carmel assisted living facility reinstated on appeal

A negligence suit against a Carmel assisted living facility in which a resident was seriously injured when a buffet table fell, knocking her to the ground, was reinstated after a Hamilton County court ruled in favor of the assisted living facility.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the Hamilton Superior Court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Magnolia Health Systems 41 LLC, which operates Crowne Point of Carmel assisted living.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of resident Mary Hogan, who claimed that in April 2016, she was standing near a buffet table when an employee “negligently cause the buffet table to fall onto [her] walker, causing her to fall to the floor,” hit her head and suffer serious injury.

Before the litigation proceeded to summary judgment, Hogan died, though the COA in a footnote observed there are no allegations that her death was a result of her injuries in this case. The suit was carried forth by her daughter and personal representative of her estate, Sandra Hogan.

In February 2020, Magnolia moved for summary judgment, arguing it could not be held liable on a theory of respondeat superior. After a hearing, Special Judge Todd L. Ruetz granted Magnolia summary judgment.

The COA reversed and remanded in Sandra Hogan, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Mary Hogan, Deceased v. Magnolia Health Systems 41, LLC, 20A-CT-1101.

“The crux of the dispute between the parties is whether the dismissal of (Jackie) Young, the alleged negligent Magnolia employee, as a defendant extinguishes Magnolia’s liability under the theory of respondeat superior. We conclude it does not,” Judge Margret Robb wrote for the panel.

“Young’s dismissal as a defendant does not extinguish Magnolia’s potential liability arising from Young’s conduct,” Robb wrote. “Magnolia admits Young was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the incident and therefore, if the trier of fact determines that Young acted negligently, her negligence will be imputed to Magnolia, and a judgment will be entered accordingly. Because Magnolia was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law and genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether Young was negligent, the trial court improperly granted summary judgment in favor of Magnolia.”

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