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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit issues two Indiana opinions

In Mesman v. Crane Pro Services (ND Ind., Magistrate Judge Cherry), a 15-page opinion, Judge Posner writes:

This products-liability case is before us for the second time. 409 F.3d 846 (7th Cir. 2005). Federal jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, and the tort issues are governed by Indiana’s productsliability statute and its common law of torts. John Mesman, an employee of a manufacturer of steel products named Infra-Metals, was gravely injured when a load of steel sheets that he was unloading from a boxcar fell on him from the crane that was lifting the sheets out of the boxcar. He brought suit under the products-liability law against the firm that had rebuilt the crane, Konecranes. A jury awarded the plaintiffs (Mesman and his wife) $5.6 million, based on its judgment that Konecranes was one-third responsible for the accident and Infra-Metals—which Mesman could not join in the suit because it was his employer—two-thirds responsible. But the judge set the verdict aside and entered judgment for the defendant. She further ruled that if she was wrong in doing this the defendant was entitled to a new trial because the jury had been confused by irrelevant evidence and had ignored critical instructions. We reversed the judgment for the defendant but affirmed the order for a new trial. The case was retried and this time the jury returned a verdict for the defendant. The magistrate judge presiding at the retrial refused to set the verdict aside. Hence this second appeal, which is by the plaintiffs. * * *

The defendant’s principal argument was not that the danger was obvious, whether to the accident victim or to the crane’s operator, but that the safety precautions were adequate and that the culpable cause of the accident was Infra-Metals’ failure to instruct the operator adequately in the safe operation of the crane. Apparently the jury was persuaded. There are no grounds for setting aside its verdict. The judgment for the defendant is therefore AFFIRMED.

In Nelson v. Hodowal (SD Ind., Judge Hamilton), a 9-page opinion, Chief Judge Easterbrook concludes:
A trustee’s duty to furnish information to beneficiaries, on which see Restatement (Third) of Trusts §82 (T.D. 4, 2005), may be discharged directly or through an intermediary such as Merrill Lynch. Often delegating the function to a specialist is best for a novice investor.* * * ERISA does not hold a fiduciary responsible for the decline in an investment’s value, when an informed and independent investment adviser has been furnished without charge to all beneficiaries, who exercise full control over which investments their accounts will hold. AFFIRMED.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 2, 2008 11:44 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions