Gaboury v. Ireland Road Grace Brethren, Inc., 483S110

Docket NºNo. 483S110
Citation446 N.E.2d 1310
Case DateApril 13, 1983
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 1310

446 N.E.2d 1310
Daniel J. GABOURY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
No. 483S110.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
April 13, 1983.

Page 1311

J. Christopher Warter, Michael A. Dvorak, South Bend, for plaintiff-appellant.

John R. Obenchain, David T. Ready, John E. Doran, South Bend, for defendants-appellees.

PIVARNIK, Justice.

This cause comes to us on a petition to transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, Third District. The St. Joseph Circuit Court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants, Ireland Road Grace Brethren, Inc., (Church) and the City of South Bend (City), in an action brought by

Page 1312

the plaintiff, Daniel Gaboury, to recover damages for injuries sustained in a motorcycle mishap. The Court of Appeals held that substantial fact issues existed as to both defendants and therefore the trial court erred in granting the motions for summary judgment. Gaboury v. Ireland Road Grace Brethren, Inc., (1982) Ind.App., 441 N.E.2d 227. We find the Court of Appeals to be in error; therefore, we grant transfer, vacate the opinion of the Court of Appeals, and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

The question presented for our review is whether the trial court was justified in granting the motions for summary judgment.

At approximately 1:00 a.m., on July 6, 1978, plaintiff Gaboury was riding a Kawasaki 350 motorcycle on Glenlake Drive in South Bend, Indiana. Gaboury intended to turn onto Coral Drive but he missed the turn. One hundred and fifty feet past the Coral Drive intersection, Glenlake Drive ended and the Church driveway began. Gaboury decided to turn around in the church parking lot but he did not know that a steel cable had been stretched across the driveway. This cable was located approximately ten feet up the driveway. Gaboury suffered injuries when he struck the cable.

In his deposition filed with the court and used in the determination of the summary judgment motions by the defendants, Gaboury testified:

"Q. And you were going to go into a parking lot and turn around, right?

A. [Gaboury] Yes.

Q. So if there was a parking lot there, it must have meant the road came to an end?

A. Yes.

Q. And could you see that parking lot before you got to it?

A. I'm not sure. There's a driveway there. I saw the driveway.

Q. You headed for the driveway, didn't you?

A. Yes.

Q. I mean you intended to go into that parking lot to turn around?

A. Uh-huh.

* * *

* * *

Q. Well, in other words, what I'm trying to ascertain is whether you, in your own mind, are confident with the fact that you did know how that particular intersection was set up and the fact that there was a dead end at Glenlake at that point.

A. Not really, no. I wasn't.

Q. You didn't know that?

A. Well, I-I don't know. I guess I knew there was a driveway there. I didn't know there was a cable there is what I'm trying to say.

Q. Well, I'm not asking you about the cable. I'm asking you about the layout of the street.

A. Yeah. I knew that.

Q. You knew that Glenlake ended at that point?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. Yes?

A. Yes.

Q. And you knew the parking lot was there?

A. Yes.

Q. The only thing you didn't know is whether a cable would be up?

A. Yes."

In opposition to the motion for summary judgment, Gaboury filed an affidavit in which he stated the following:

"4. That because of the lighting and the fact that the cable was in no way highlighted, the plaintiff never saw the cable prior to the accident and was never aware that the (sic) had entered the property of the Ireland Road Grace Brethren, Inc.

* * *

* * *

6. That the plaintiff knew that a parking lot of a church was at the end of the road; however, he could not ascertain where the end of the road was located."

Page 1313

Gaboury now argues that the City negligently placed the lighting of the street. He argues that the City had the duty to sufficiently light the end of the street so that he could have determined where the street terminated and the church driveway began. As for the suit against the Church, Gaboury states that when the Church strung the cable to close off the driveway from the public it created a trap or pitfall and therefore the Church had a duty to warn him that the driveway was no longer open to the public. The City argues that Gaboury's deposition establishes that he saw that the street ended and that the driveway began and therefore was aware he was on church property. The Church's position is that Gaboury entered upon the Church's premises for his own convenience as a mere licensee at the time and place alleged, and as such, he took the defendant's property as he found it; that the defendant Church had a right to exclude others from its property; and that the affirmative duty of the defendant to the plaintiff at the time and place alleged was to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring him or acting in a manner to increase the licensee's peril.

"The function of a summary judgment proceeding is to expedite the disposition of disputes in which there is no genuine issue of fact material to the claim involved and a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Barbre v. Indianapolis Water Co., (1980) Ind.App., 400 N.E.2d 1142, 1145; Ind.R.Tr.P. 56(C). The party seeking summary judgment has a burden to establish that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Any doubt as to a fact or inference to be drawn therefrom is resolved in favor of the party opposing the motion for summary judgment. Poxon v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., (1980) Ind.App., 407 N.E.2d 1181, 1184. A fact is material if its resolution is decisive of either the action or relevant secondary issue. Lee v. Weston, (1980) Ind.App., 402 N.E.2d 23, 24. We agree with the Court of Appeals that to be considered genuine under Rule 56 a material issue must be established by "sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute ... to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." Stuteville v. Downing, (1979) Ind.App., 391 N.E.2d 629, 631, quoting from First National Bank of Arizona v. Cities Service Co., Inc., (1968) 391 U.S. 253, 289, 88 S.Ct. 1575, 1592, 20 L.Ed.2d 569, 592.

Gaboury's statements of fact in his deposition and in his affidavit which was filed in opposition to the motion for summary judgment are inconsistent. The affidavit states that Gaboury could not ascertain where the end of the road was located and that he was not aware he had entered the Church property. In the deposition, Gaboury indicates he knew the Church property was there and purposely headed for it to turn around. A significant statement in the deposition reveals that Gaboury knew the layout of the area and everything about it except for the fact that the cable was stretched across the Church driveway. Gaboury also said that he knew there was a "no outlet" sign posted along Glenlake Drive but claimed that he did not see it the night of the accident.

The Court of Appeals held that since there was contradiction between Gaboury's deposition and his affidavit, only the trier of fact could choose which of Gaboury's statements to believe or disbelieve and therefore the trial court had to accept the statements in the affidavit for purposes of determination of summary judgment. We disagree with the Court of Appeals' assessment of the trial court's duties and responsibilities at this juncture. The trial court certainly had the duty to take into consideration all of the statements made by the plaintiff on which he based his cause of action since all of these statements were under oath. However, there does not seem to be such a conflict in either of his statements that any material fact is left to be determined by the trier of fact. Insofar as the City was concerned, plaintiff Gaboury said he knew of every circumstance except the cable. Although he makes a general statement in his affidavit that he did not know where the street ended and the driveway began, he does not assign any defect in

Page 1314

the construction or maintenance of the street that caused his accident and the resulting damages. He does not allege or claim better lighting would have shown any condition...

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