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Indiana Supreme Court: Summary Judgment Affirmed On Proximate Cause Grounds
Posted in Litigation

In Kovach v. Caligor Midwest, the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously affirmed a summary judgment in favor of manufacturer and distributor defendants in a product liability case on a rarely applied basis:  a failure of proof on proximate cause.

The plaintiffs in Kovach alleged that the medicine cup used to give a fatal overdose of pain medication to their son was defectively designed, and that the manufacturers and distributors of the cup had failed to warn that the cup was not suitable for precision measurement.

The undisputed facts, though, established that the dosage administered was double the prescribed amount, and that none of the claimed defects “would have caused an overdose of that magnitude.” Proximate cause, the Indiana Supreme Court explained, “has two components:  causation-in-fact and scope of liability.”  Although “[c]ausation-in-fact is ordinarily a factual question reserved for determination by the jury,” the Court noted, “where reasonable minds cannot disagree as to causation-in-fact, the issue may become a question of law for the court.” 

That was the case here, the Court held, as “the undisputed facts establish[ed] that there [was] no such causal connection” between the manner in which the medicine cup was manufactured (or whether any warnings should have been given concerning its use as a precise measuring device) and the evidence that the nurse administered twice the prescribed dosage.

Bingham McHale’s Karl Mulvaney and Nana Quay-Smith represented some of the prevailing appellees in this case.

  • Partner

    Karl practices in the areas of appellate, litigation and disciplinary law. He is a 1977 cum laude graduate of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Mulvaney earned his undergraduate degree from The Ohio State ...

  • Of Counsel

    Nana has extensive appellate court experience, and has handled many significant appeals, including G&N Aircraft v. Boehn, Ammerman v. Ford and Meyer v. Shell, to name a few. Throughout her career, she has had the opportunity to ...

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