Betty R. Cain et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
McKee Door Sales et al., Defendants-Appellees.
APPEAL from the Franklin County C.P.C. No. 12CV-02-1655 Court of Common Pleas
Arthur C. Graves, for appellants.
Joyce V. Kimbler, for appellees.
(¶ 1} Betty R. Cain is appealing from the summary judgment entered in her lawsuit. She assigns a single error for our consideration:
The trial court erred in sustaining the Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of the Defendants.
(¶ 2} Betty Cain fell on snow and ice in the parking lot at the office of her eye doctor. She was seriously injured. As a result, she sued various entities affiliated with the office building. Summary judgment was granted in her lawsuit.
(¶ 3} Lawsuits on behalf of persons who fall on ice or snow are rarely successful in Ohio. The Supreme Court of Ohio has made liability very hard to establish. In Brinkman v. Ross, 68 Ohio St.3d 82 (1993), the Supreme Court held in the syllabus:
Homeowner has no common-law duty to remove or make less hazardous natural accumulation of ice and snow on private sidewalks or walkways on homeowner's premises, or to warn those who enter upon premises of inherent dangers presented by natural accumulations of ice and snow, regardless of whether entrant is social guest or business invitee.
(¶ 4} The facts in the Brinkman case are that the Brinkmans were invited to visit the Ross home during the winter. The Ross family knew that the sidewalk into the house was covered by a sheet of ice which in turn was covered by a dusting of snow. The Rosses knew the situation was dangerous, but never warned their friends, the Brinkmans. The Rosses discussed salting their sidewalk or otherwise alleviating the danger, but did not do so before the Brinkmans arrived. A fall occurred and serious injury ensued.
(¶ 5} This appellate court found that liability was possible under these facts. The Supreme Court reversed our findings and published its opinion which included the syllabus set forth above.
(¶ 6} Counsel for Betty Cain tries to distinguish the case of Brinkman, arguing that the construction of the parking lot was improper or improperly designed, resulting in a trough in the parking lot which accumulated snow, ice and water in what constituted an unnatural accumulation. Counsel in essence asks us to disregard Brinkman on other issues, such as failure to warn of the dangers and failure to remove the danger through salting or plowing. In many ways, the facts in Brinkman were more egregious than those presented here. The Rosses were aware of the danger. There is no showing that any defendant here knew of the danger. The Rosses discussed the need to alleviate the problem and had time to do so. In Betty Cain's situation, the snow built up because the storm continued while Betty Cain was in her doctor's office.
(¶ 7} We see nothing in the Brinkman case which implies a different standard for office premises as opposed to hours used for business purposes, so the only issue which is left open by Brinkman is the issue of whether the snow, ice and water where she fell were not a natural accumulation. Counsel for Betty Cain submits that she slipped on "snow covered ice formed by storm water runoff from a defectively designed parking lot that created an unnatural accumulation of snow and ice." Appellant's brief, at 7.
(¶ 8} Nothing in the record before us indicates that the snow in the parking lot was removed or moved, so the accumulation of snow at least ...