Woman Suffering Injury in Fall Is Allowed to Proceed in Her Case After Indiana Court of Appeals Finds a Genuine Issue of Material Fact and Judicial Bias
Penny Chappey and her husband Gregory Chappey (the Chappeys) sued a tow truck driver, Joseph Paul Storey (Storey), and his company for injuries Penny suffered when she fell from the flatbed of Storey’s tow truck while he was loading and securing her vehicle. Penny was at a CVS with her bulldog puppy when her SUV wouldn’t start. She called for a tow and Storey responded. Penny asked Storey whether her puppy could stay in her vehicle, and Storey said yes. Storey got into Penny’s vehicle to put her vehicle in neutral and Penny’s puppy was jumping all over him.
After Storey loaded Penny’s vehicle, Penny got onto the flatbed of the tow truck. While Penny said Storey asked her to get on the flatbed to restrain her puppy so that Storey could put her vehicle in park, Storey said he did not ask Penny to get onto the flatbed, did not know Penny was on the flatbed, and believed Penny being on the flatbed was in violation of industry standards. After Penny restrained her puppy on the flatbed, she pivoted to walk towards the back of the flatbed and fell several feet to the ground, suffering injuries. While Penny didn’t know exactly why she fell, she noted it was a tight space to traverse without the ability to have her feet side by side.
In personal injury negligence claims in Indiana, claimants must prove (1) the defendant owed the claimant a duty, (2) the defendant breached that duty, and (3) compensable injuries proximately caused by the defendant’s breach of duty. Storey and his company moved for summary judgment arguing that there existed no genuine issue of material fact as to proximate cause, which is generally a question of fact for the jury, because Penny did not know what caused her to fall. The trial court held a hearing and three months later issued an order granting summary judgment for the defendants.