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Indiana court: Son can sue father over car accident injuries

An Indiana man can sue his dad for accidentally driving into him, causing significant leg injuries, the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled.

The state’s high court on Monday overturned a lower court ruling that said Robert L. Clark Jr. was prohibited by state law from suing Robert L. Clark Sr. for damages for injuries the son suffered in the Sept. 5, 2007, incident in Adams County.

According to court documents, the younger Clark, age 46, was a passenger in a car being driven by his father. When they arrived at their destination, the son got out to help his father park. He walked in front of the vehicle and motioned to his father to drive forward into a parking space.

Once the vehicle had pulled in, the son raised his hand to signal his father to stop. Instead of pressing the brake pedal, the father’s foot hit the accelerator. The car lurched forward, pinning Clark Jr. between it and the next vehicle.

The son suffered significant leg injuries. He and his wife filed a lawsuit against his father in November 2008, alleging negligence.

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The Adams County trial court threw out the case, saying that under the state’s “guest statute” drivers are not liable for loss or damage arising from injuries to or the death of the drivers’ family members. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed that ruling and said the son could sue.

The Supreme Court, in a 3-2 opinion, agreed with the appellate decision and overturned the trial court ruling.

The justices said:

The Indiana Guest Statute prevents certain designated passengers from recovering damages for injuries resulting from the ordinary negligence of the motor vehicle operator, where such passenger was ‘being transported without payment in or upon the motor vehicle."  Ind. Code § 34-30-11-1 (emphasis added).  We hold that, as to injuries inflicted when such a passenger has exited the vehicle and is standing outside of it and directing the driver's attempt to park, the passenger is not "in or upon" the vehicle and thus is not precluded from bringing a negligence action against the driver.

Read the Indiana Supreme Court decision

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