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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit issues three Indiana decisions [Updated]

In all the excitement yesterday over the toll road decision here, the ILB neglected to see that the 7th Circuit issued three opinions yesterday, all involving civil cases out of Indiana.

In Bourne, Andrew v. Gilman, Marty (David F. Hamilton, Judge), a 12-page opinion, KANNE, Circuit Judge, writes:

When Ball State student Andrew Bourne rushed onto a football field with a crowd that tore down a goalpost, the post fell on his back and rendered him paraplegic. He and his parents sued Gilman Gear, manufacturer of the post, in diversity under Indiana law arguing that the post was defective and unreasonably dangerous because (1) it was foreseeable that fans will tear down goalposts, (2) the average fan would not understand the extent of the risk, and (3) there are alternative designs that would reduce that risk. The district court granted summary judgment for Gilman Gear because the risk was obvious. We affirm. * * *

Because the district court’s conclusion that Indiana law does not require manufacturers to protect consumers and users from themselves is fundamentally correct, and because any jury’s application of the B"<"PL formula based on this record would be mere speculation, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

In Mills, Brenda v. City of Evansville (ND Ind., John Daniel Tinder, Judge), a 5-page opinion, EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge, writes:
“[W]hen public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.” Garcetti v. Ceballos, No. 04-473 (U.S. May 30, 2006), slip op. 9. That principle resolves this appeal. * * *

If a chief of police can’t fire or demote sergeants whose views imply less than enthusiastic support, what can he do to ensure faithful implementation? The answer must be a lateral transfer; that’s how Evansville proceeded with Mills. * * *

Chief Gulledge was entitled to insist that his subordinates not play the “Yes, Minister” game and undermine his directions. The power of transfer is essential if the top of the bureaucracy is to see its decisions through.

In Marloules, Christine v. Jumbo, Inc. (ND Ind., Andrew P. Rodovich, Magistrate Judge), an 11-page opinion, ROVNER, Circuit Judge, writes:
Ordinarily we count on gravity to keep heavy items in place; and so when flour barrels, armchairs, and truck wheels become airborne we assume first that something has gone wrong. Such events, lawyers say, speak for themselves, or in Latin, “res ipsa loquitur,” and the blame for any resulting injury can be imputed to the person who had control of the item before it became a dangerous projectile. Christine Maroules asks the court to adopt this view to delegate to the owner of Jumbo, Inc. trucking company and Jumbo’s driver, James E. Windsor (together, “Jumbo”), blame for injuries she sustained when a wheel broke free from the truck upon which it was mounted, flew through the air, and crashed through the front passenger side of her car. Because she has failed to demonstrate the elements necessary for res ipsa loquitur to apply, however, we affirm the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to Jumbo. * * *

As Maroules argues, “[o]nce the plaintiff presents evidence to bring herself within the operation of res ipsa loquitur, the inference of negligence is to be weighed by a jury and summary judgment is not proper.” (Maroules Reply Br. at 8). As explained above, however, Maroules, has not presented sufficient evidence to bring herself within the operation of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. Consequently, summary judgment must be granted for Jumbo, and the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.

[Updated 6/22/06] Here is brief coverage of the Evansville Police Dept. story, via the Evansville Courier& Press

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 21, 2006 01:44 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions