CHICAGO (April 3, 2023) – In an $8 million traumatic brain injury case, the Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a summary judgment ruling in favor of Tyson & Mendes LLP client Spear Corporation, a design/build company sued for alleged faulty design after a purported brain injury occurred in a newly constructed swimming pool (CAUSE NO. 71D04-1804-CT-000160).
According to Scott Ruksakiati, Managing Partner of Tyson & Mendes’ Chicago office, this was a potentially high stakes case in which the plaintiff was allegedly injured in a pool within a new Northern Indiana health club facility.
“Our client, Spear, prepared the engineering design for the pool within the recently completed athletic facility. The plaintiff was swimming in that pool and collided with a wing wall which is a common feature in pools,” Ruksakiati said. “She later alleged the pool was improperly designed and dangerous – and claimed to have suffered a traumatic brain injury, seeking $8 million in damages.”
The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s determination that there was no evidence that Spear’s pool design and construction was inadequate or negligent. “During litigation, the plaintiff’s liability expert, a former university professor with a background in kinesiology and aquatic facility operations and management, maintained that although the pool was completely code compliant, it was still unreasonably dangerous,” Ruksakiati said. “Yet during his deposition, this expert admitted he had no education, training or experience in designing swimming pools and was not qualified to offer an opinion as to the applicable standard of care.” In contrast, Ruksakiati said, “we presented the opinions of a licensed professional engineer who designs swimming pools.”
Ultimately, the Court of Appeals determined that the trial court properly barred the plaintiff’s expert from opining about the design of the swimming pool. Absent expert opinion testimony, the Court agreed that the plaintiff had not proffered sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact that Spear’s pool design failed to meet the standard of care. Furthermore, as required by Indiana law, Spear presented affirmative evidence through its design expert that Spear’s pool design met the standard of care and the pool was not unreasonably dangerous. As a result, the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling in Spear’s favor.
This decision reaffirms an important legal principle in Indiana law that expert opinion testimony is required in negligence cases against design professionals. It also demonstrates the importance of retaining a qualified expert to opine regarding the applicable standard of care and the client’s compliance with the standard.
Serving 18 states nationwide, Tyson & Mendes is one of the fastest growing civil defense firms in the U.S. The firm has established itself as a leader in driving down damages awards and reducing the likelihood of Nuclear Verdicts® – often defined as jury awards in excess of $10 million. Using a unique set of proven defense methods, the firm saved clients more than $1.07 billion in 2022.
For more information and to view career opportunities, visit www.tysonmendes.com.
About Tyson & Mendes LLP
Tyson & Mendes LLP is a nationwide, AV-rated litigation and trial firm specializing in insurance defense and protecting its clients from Nuclear Verdicts®. Robert Tyson and Patrick Mendes founded the firm in 2002 to defend corporations, insurance companies, and their clients in civil litigation matters. The firm has experienced tremendous growth in the past two decades, with offices across the U.S. serving clients in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The firm is most widely recognized for winning the landmark Howell v. Hamilton Meats California Supreme Court case, which forever changed the state’s litigation landscape by significantly impacting the damages a plaintiff may recover. Robert Tyson is also the author of the Amazon Bestseller Nuclear Verdicts®: Defending Justice for All, the first playbook for the defense on how to avoid runaway jury verdicts.
For more information, visit www.tysonmendes.com.