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10/01/87 BROKERS INC. v. MARTHA WHITE

Filed: October 1, 1987.

BROKERS INC., D/B/A AUSTIN SUPERMARKET, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT BELOW)
v.
MARTHA WHITE, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF BELOW)



APPEAL FROM THE JACKSON CIRCUIT COURT, The Honorable Robert R. Brown, Judge, CAUSE NO. 81-C-201.

Robertson, J., Neal, J. And Garrard, P.j., Concur.

Author: Robertson

ROBERTSON, J.

Appellant-defendant Brokers, Inc., d.b.a. Austin Supermarket (Austin) appeals the trial court's granting of the motion to correct errors in favor of appellee-plaintiff Martha White (Martha).

We affirm.

Martha filed suit against Austin's after she fell in Austin Supermarket and sustained injuries. The evidence showed that Martha was shopping for groceries for her family on April 21, 1981. Martha had reached for a jar of pickles to put in her cart when she fell flat on her back. After Martha's fall, witnesses observed a puddle of liquid underneath or near Martha. Witnesses described the puddle as light-green or yellow-green and smelling like pickle juice.

Martha was taken to the hospital where she was x-rayed. After being transferred to another hospital, she was examined by Dr. Carl Jamora. She complained of pain in the neck and lower back, and numbness in the lower extremities as well as weakness in her right hand. She exhibited weakness and limited range of motion; Dr. Jamora also observed a bruise on her lower back. Dr. Jamora found no injury to Martha's spine which would prevent her from walking. Nevertheless, Martha left the hospital in a wheelchair, and has been unable to walk since the fall in Austin's Supermarket.[Footnote 1]

Several weeks after the accident, Martha consulted a neurologist, who confirmed the absence of a spinal injury. The neurologist referred Martha to a psychiatrist, Dr. Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell concluded that Martha was suffering from a conversion reaction. A conversion reaction or conversion hysteria is a condition in which a person experiences an involuntary loss of function in an area of the body, without any demonstrable physical injury which would account for the loss. Dr. Mitchell testified that a person manifesting a conversion reaction converts feelings of anxiety into a physical disturbance such as paralysis of the arms or legs. Expert witnesses also testified that Martha was susceptible or predisposed to a conversion reaction, given her history of early marriage, lack of education, and abuse by her spouse. Martha had told one of her doctors that following an injury she sustained several years earlier, she believed that paralysis would result if she ever fell again. The expert witnesses concluded that the fall in Austin's Supermarket was a "triggering event" for the conversion reaction.

Martha's complaint alleged that she had slipped and fallen as a result of Austin's negligence, and had received permanent and disabling injuries as a result. Austin denied any negligence and disputed that Martha's paraplegia was caused by her fall. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Austin, and the trial court entered judgment on the verdict. Martha's motion to correct errors contained only one point of error: the court's refusal to read to the jury Martha's tendered instruction 9:

A negligent party takes the person he injures as he finds him. A negligent party is not relieved from liability merely because a pre-existing condition of the injured person makes her more susceptible to injury. A negligent party is liable for harm to the injured person even though the condition of the injured person is neither known nor should it be known to the negligent party.

Martha requested a new trial. The trial court granted Martha's motion to correct errors, and Austin appeals.

Austin presents two issues for review:

I. Whether the trial court erred in failing to comply with Ind. Rules of ...


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