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King v. East Worthington Village

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

September 24, 2013

Maureen King, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
East Worthington Village et al., Defendants-Appellees.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas C.P.C. No. 12CVC-04-4854

Arthur C. Graves, for appellant.

Kevin P. Foley, for appellees.

DECISION

CONNOR, J.

(¶1} Plaintiff-appellant, Maureen King ("appellant"), appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas granting defendants-appellees, East Worthington Village, East Worthington Village, L.L.C., and Elite Management Holding, L.L.C. ("East Village"), motion for summary judgment.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

(¶2} Appellant slipped and fell on an accumulation of ice and snow on the concrete sidewalk in front of her apartment building, which is owned and operated by East Village. The undisputed facts reveal that on February 1, 2011, appellant left her apartment at approximately 9:00 a.m. to retrieve some items from her car. Appellant exited the building and took a step or two on the concrete slab outside the exit door. Just as appellant stepped down onto the sidewalk, she slipped and fell on ice suffering a fracture to her left wrist as well as injuries to other areas of her body.

(¶3} On April 17, 2012, appellant filed her complaint against East Village alleging negligence. On January 22, 2013, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of East Village.

II.ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

(¶4} Appellant has timely appealed to this court, asserting the following assignment of error:

The trial court erred in sustaining the Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of the Defendant East Worthington Village.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

(¶5} Appellate review of summary judgment motion is de novo. Helton v. Scioto Cty. Bd. of Commrs., 123 Ohio App.3d 158, 162 (4th Dist.1997). "When reviewing a trial court's ruling on summary judgment, the court of appeals conducts an independent review of the record and stands in the shoes of the trial court." Mergenthal v. Star Bank Corp., 122 Ohio App.3d 100, 103 (12th Dist.1997). We must affirm the trial court's judgment if any of the grounds raised by the movant at the trial court are found to support it, even if the trial court failed to consider those grounds. Coventry Twp. v. Ecker, 101 Ohio App.3d 38, 41-42 (9th Dist.1995).

(¶6} Summary judgment is proper only when the party moving for summary judgment demonstrates that: (1) no genuine issue of material fact exists, (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and (3) reasonable minds could come to but one conclusion and that conclusion is adverse to the party against whom the motion for summary judgment is made, that party being entitled to have the evidence most strongly construed in that party's favor. Civ.R. 56(C); State ex rel. Grady v. State Emp. Relations Bd., 78 Ohio St.3d 181, 183 (1997).

(¶7} When seeking summary judgment on the ground that the nonmoving party cannot prove its case, the moving party bears the initial burden of informing the trial court of the basis for the motion, and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact on an essential element of the nonmoving party's claims. Dresher v. Burt, 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 293 (1996). A moving party does not discharge this initial burden under Civ.R. 56 by simply making a conclusory allegation that the nonmoving party has no evidence to prove its case. Id. Rather, the moving party must affirmatively demonstrate by affidavit or other evidence allowed by Civ.R. 56(C) that the nonmoving party has no evidence to support its claims. Id. If the moving party meets this initial burden, then the nonmoving party has a reciprocal burden outlined in Civ.R. 56(E) to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial and, if the nonmoving party does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against the nonmoving party. Id.

IV. SUBSTANTIVE LAW

(¶8} To establish a cause of action for negligence, plaintiff is required to show (1) the existence of a duty, (2) a breach of that duty, and (3) an injury resulting proximately therefrom. Menifee v. Ohio Welding Prods., Inc., 15 Ohio St.3d 75, 77 (1984), citing Di Gildo v. Caponi, 18 Ohio St.2d 125 (1969); Feldman v. Howard, 10 Ohio St.2d 189 (1967). A trial court properly grants a motion for summary judgment "[w]hen the defendants, as the moving parties, furnish evidence which demonstrates the plaintiff has not established the elements necessary to maintain [a] negligence action." Feichtner v. Cleveland, 95 Ohio App.3d 388, 394 (8th Dist.1994), citing Keister v. Park Centre Lanes, 3 Ohio App.3d 19 (5th Dist.1981).

(¶9} "Whether a duty exists is a question of law for the court to determine." Mussivand v. David, 45 Ohio St.3d 314, 318 (1989). A defendant's duty of care is determined by the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant and the foreseeability of injury. Simmers v. Bentley Constr. Co., 64 Ohio St.3d 642 (1992). An owner or occupier owes an invitee the duty of ordinary care in maintaining the premises in a reasonably safe condition so that she is not unnecessarily and unreasonably exposed to danger. See Cordle v. Bravo Dev., Inc., 10th Dist. No. 06AP-256, 2006-Ohio-5693, ¶ 9.

(¶10} However, when injuries are caused by natural accumulations of ice and snow, Ohio law provides that an owner or occupier owes no duty either to remove such accumulations or warn users of the dangers associated therewith. Thatcher v. Lauffer Ravines, L.L.C, 10th Dist. No. 11AP-851, 2012-Ohio-6193, ¶ 15. A natural accumulation of ice or snow is that which is formed solely as a result of meteorological forces such as rain, snow, or a thawing and re-freezing cycle. Id. See also Bailey v. St. Vincent DePaul Church, 8th Dist. No. 71629 (May 8, 1997), citing Hoenigma ...


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