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Justices allow man to sue his dad

– The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Adams County man can sue his father for driving into him, causing significant leg injuries.

The case began in September 2007 when Robert Clark Jr. was a passenger in a car being driven by his father, Robert Clark Sr. When they arrived at their destination; the son got out, walked in front of the vehicle and began motioning for 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 depressing the brake pedal, the father’s foot hit the accelerator, causing the vehicle to pin his son between his vehicle and the next vehicle, court records said.

Clark Jr. and his wife sued, alleging negligence by the father. An Adams County judge initially threw the case out, saying Indiana’s guest statute prohibits the suit.

The law generally says the operator of a car is not liable for loss or damage from injuries to certain family members if they are being transported, “in or upon the motor vehicle” without payment, unless it is the result of willful misconduct.

Clark Jr. is alleging negligence.

The crux of the argument was whether the son was considered “in or upon the motor vehicle.”

The trial judge ruled in favor of the father but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, saying the phrase is unambiguous and the son clearly had exited the vehicle when he was struck, meaning the law doesn’t apply.

The Supreme Court – in a 3-2 decision – upheld the appellate ruling and said the son could sue.

nkelly@jg.net

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