from the Porter Superior Court The Honorable Mary R. Harper,
Judge Trial Court Cause No. 64D05-1410-CT-8841
Attorney for Appellant Michael E. Polen, Jr. Dyer, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Douglas B. Bates Chelsea R. Stanley
Jeffersonville, Indiana Zachary M. VanVactor Louisville,
Carol Walters attended an open house at JS Aviation, Inc.
d/b/a Eagle Aircraft (JS Aviation) and fell as she walked
through a doorway from the pilot's lounge to the hangar.
Just after the threshold was a five-and-one-quarter inch step
down into the hangar that she did not notice. Walters filed
suit against JS Aviation for injuries resulting from her
fall, and JS Aviation sought summary judgment, which the
trial court granted. On appeal, Walters argues that summary
judgment was improperly granted.
We reverse and remand.
& Procedural History
JS Aviation operates a flight school at the Porter County
Regional Airport, which Walters's husband attended. On
the morning of April 26, 2014, Walters, her husband, and her
seven-year-old grandson arrived early at JS Aviation for an
open house. They entered at the front of the pilot's
lounge. On the other side of the lounge was the entrance to
the hangar through a set of double doors. These doors were
usually kept closed but were opened wide into the lounge that
day for the event. When the doors were open like this, it was
customary for JS Aviation to place chairs in front of the
doors with signs on them warning people to watch their step.
Because Walters arrived to the event early, the chairs were
not in place yet.
Shortly after their arrival, Walters's grandson saw a
plane in the hangar and walked in that direction. The hangar
was brightly lit, while the lounge was much more dim. Walters
followed a few steps behind her grandson as she looked
straight ahead toward him and the plane. She did not notice
that there was a step down into the hangar. Nor did she see
warning signs on one of the opened doors and on the floor. As
she passed through the doorway, Walters missed the step down
and fell. Walters acknowledged that if she had
looked down at that exact moment, she would have seen the
step. Walters, however, perceived the floor surface as
"one flat level" extending from the lounge into the
hanger. Appellant's Appendix at 134.
The step down to the hangar is five-and-one-quarter inches
and occurs within a few inches of the threshold on the
hangar-side of the doors. Facing up on the floor, just before
the step, is a red sign with white letters stating:
WATCH YOUR ...