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City of fort Wayne v. Parrish

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 19, 2015

City of Fort Wayne, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Katie Parrish, Appellee-Plaintiff

Appeal from the Allen Superior Court. Lower Court Cause No. 02D02-0702-CT-47. The Honorable Craig Bobay, Judge.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: James P. Fenton, Daniel G. McNamara, Eilbacher Fletcher, LLP, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: Christopher C. Myers, Christopher C. Myers & Associates, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Pyle, Judge. Barnes, J., and May, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 276

Pyle, Judge.

Statement of the Case

[¶1] Appellant/Defendant, City of Fort Wayne (" the City" ), files an interlocutory appeal of the trial court's grant of Appellee/Plaintiff, Katie Parrish's (" Parrish" ), motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence from her personal injury/tort claim trial regarding the fact that she was not wearing a seatbelt when a car in which she was a passenger was involved in an automobile accident. On appeal, the City argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it granted Parrish's motion because evidence that she was not wearing a seatbelt when she was involved in an accident involving a Fort Wayne police officer was admissible to prove that she was guilty of contributory negligence for her injuries. In support of this argument, the City claims that Parrish was negligent per se for violating Indiana's mandatory passenger restraint act (" Seatbelt Act" ). In response, Parrish argues that a violation of the Seatbelt Act cannot be used as evidence to prove fault under a theory of contributory negligence. Because we conclude that the Indiana Legislature did not clearly intend to deviate from common law when it enacted the Seatbelt Act, we agree that a violation of the Seatbelt Act may not be used to prove contributory negligence, and therefore the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it granted Parrish's motion in limine.

We affirm.

Issue

Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it granted Parrish's motion in limine.

Facts

[¶2] On February 6, 2005, a vehicle operated by a Fort Wayne Police Department officer collided with a vehicle operated by Chad Reuille (" Reuille" ). Parrish was a front seat passenger in Reuille's car and was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision, although the seat where she was sitting was equipped with a seatbelt meeting the applicable federal standards. As a result of the collision, Parrish was thrown from the vehicle and sustained physical injuries.

[¶3] On February 2, 2007, Parrish filed a negligence action against the City, the police officer's employer, based on the motor vehicle collision. On February 7, 2014, prior to trial, she filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude from the trial any evidence that she had not been wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident. In her motion, she argued this evidence was inadmissible to show either her contributory negligence or her failure to mitigate damages. In response, the City argued that evidence of her seatbelt usage was admissible because Parrish had ...


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