The Circle Centre Mall in Indianapolis is the commercial heart of downtown. The four floors of retail space see hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, thanks to its direct connection via skywalks to 12 major hotels.
But in April 2018, the mall announced a unique new tenant: the Purdue Polytechnic High School, currently located on South Meridian Street. The school will take over the space formerly occupied by Brown Mackie College on the topmost level of the mall.
This change in location raises questions in several different areas of interest: student safety and security, maintenance, and tenant rights to change the layout of their space, just to name a few. One question on our personal injury lawyers’ minds is, “Who will be found responsible for injuries sustained at school or on the way to school?”
Premises Liability Overview
To answer this question, we first have to know what pieces of premises liability law play a role in determining fault for a person’s injury. There are three main questions victims must answer in the affirmative before filing a premises liability claim against a negligent party:
- Did the injury occur on someone else’s property?
- Was the injury directly caused by the property owner’s negligence?
- Did the injury result in substantial harm to the victim?
If any of these answers are “no,” there’s likely no grounds for filing a claim. For example, if someone can answer the first two questions, but suffered no real harm, they probably can’t sue the property owner for thousands of dollars in damages for injuries that could have happened, rather than injuries that did happen.
Who’s Responsible at School?
In a typical, standalone school, administrators are responsible for hiring staff members to regularly clean and maintain the building and its grounds to keep students safe. This includes clearing snow and ice from sidewalks, repairing broken handrails, and leaving “Caution: Wet Floor” signs after mopping.
When students are injured at school or on the way to school, the school itself will have to prove that its maintenance of the property was not negligent. Otherwise, they may be liable for paying damages through a premises liability claim.
The School within the Mall
Things may look different at the new Purdue Polytechnic location, however, since the school “property” is housed within a larger property owned by Circle Centre Mall. As students make the journey to the fourth floor, the mall would be responsible for their safety as if they were ordinary shoppers. Once they step through the doors to school, however, it may not be so clear who’s responsible for maintenance and security.
It may come down to the stipulations in the lease contract between Simon Property Group and Purdue Polytechnic. The school could be required to supply their own maintenance staff to take care of the nearly 25,000 square feet of school, or the mall may decide to provide their own personnel.
No matter what the contract says, premises liability law becomes really tricky. In some cases, maintenance staff may be found negligent for causing an injury; in others, students or school staff members may cause injuries their own negligence. It’s difficult to determine who to hold responsible when you’re facing a mountain of medical bills after your injury.
If all this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. Premises liability is rarely straightforward and often requires the expertise of an attorney to sort out all the arguments, contracts, and precedents in play for any given claim.
Guidance from an Indiana Personal Injury Attorney
Students at Purdue Polytechnic — or schools in a similar situation — who suffer injuries while on school property may find it easier to file their claim with the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. These lawyers specialize in proving fault in tricky legal scenarios and can communicate directly with property owners and insurance adjustors on the victim’s behalf.
Hensley Legal Group’s personal injury lawyers are well-versed in Indiana’s specific state laws and are here to help. To get your case started, call us or contact us online today. Your conversation with us is always free.