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City of Beech Grove v. Beloat

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 16, 2015

City of Beech Grove, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
Cathy J. Beloat, Appellee-Plaintiff

Appeal from the Marion Superior Court. The Honorable Patrick L. McCarty, Judge. Cause No. 49D03-1302-CT-5276.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: Ian L. Stewart, Stephenson Morow & Semler, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: David L. Byers, Andrew J. Noone, Holwager, Byers, & Caughey, Beech Grove, Indiana.

Mathias, Judge. May, J., concurs. Robb, J., dissents with opinion.

OPINION

Mathias, Judge.

[¶1] The City of Beech Grove, Indiana (" the City" ), appeals the order of the Marion Superior Court denying the City's motion for summary judgment in the negligence claim brought against the City by Cathy J. Beloat (" Beloat" ). The City appeals and argues that no genuine issues of material fact exist with regard to whether the City was entitled to immunity from suit for performance of a " discretionary function" under Indiana Code section 34-13-3-3(7).

[¶2] We reverse and remand.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶3] The facts in the light most favorable to Beloat, as the non-moving party, reveal that on June 19, 2012, Beloat was walking across Main Street in Beech Grove, Indiana at the intersection of Main Street and 10th Street. As she walked across the street at the crosswalk, Beloat had to step outside of the crosswalk area to walk around a white pickup truck that had blocked part of the crosswalk. As Beloat did this, her foot went into a hole in the pavement and became stuck, causing her to trip. Beloat heard her left leg " snap," and she fell to the ground. Two passersby saw Beloat fall and helped her up; one of these passersby took her to the hospital, where she was treated for fractures in her left tibia and fibula, the two bones in the lower leg.[1]

[¶4] Beloat filed a complaint against the City on February 11, 2013, alleging negligence. The City responded on March 28, 2013, and almost a year later, on March 10, 2014, the City filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that Beloat was unable to prove proximate cause because she did not know which hole had caused her to fall, that the City was entitled to discretionary function immunity under Indiana Code section 34-13-3-3(7), and that Beloat's claim was barred due to contributory negligence. Beloat filed a response to the City's motion, and the trial court held a summary judgment hearing on July 21, 2014. The trial court issued an order denying the City's motion for summary judgment on July 24, 2014. The City then requested that the trial court certify its order for interlocutory appeal. The trial court did so, and we accepted interlocutory jurisdiction on October 3, 2014.

Summary Judgment Standard of Review

[¶5] Our standard for reviewing a trial court's order granting a motion for summary judgment is well settled:

When reviewing a grant of summary judgment, our standard of review is the same as that of the trial court. Considering only those facts that the parties designated to the trial court, we must determine whether there is a genuine issue as to any material fact and whether the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. In answering these questions, the reviewing court construes all factual inferences in the non-moving party's favor and resolves all doubts as to the existence of a material issue against the moving party. The moving party bears the burden of making a prima facie showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law; and once the movant satisfies the burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to designate and produce evidence of facts showing the existence of a genuine issue of material fact.
The party appealing a summary judgment decision has the burden of persuading this court that the grant or denial of summary judgment was erroneous. Where the facts are undisputed and the issue presented is a pure question of law, we review the matter de novo.
Importantly for this case, summary judgment is rarely appropriate in negligence actions, since negligence cases are particularly fact sensitive and are governed by a standard of the objective reasonable person. This standard is best applied by a jury after hearing all of the evidence.

M.S.D. of Martinsville v. Jackson, 9 N.E.3d 230, 235 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014), trans. denied (citations and ...


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