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Quaye v. North Market Development Authority, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

August 31, 2017

Emmanuel Quaye, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
North Market Development Authority, Inc., et al., Defendants-Appellees.

         APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas C.P.C. No. 14CVC-10496

          On brief: Malek & Malek, LLC, and James Malek, for appellant. Argued: James Malek.

          On brief: David Heinlein, for appellees Scott Davis and North Market Development Authority, Inc. Argued: David Heinlein.

          DECISION

          BRUNNER, J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Emmanuel Quaye, appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas finding defendant-appellee, Scott Davis, not liable on Quaye's claim of negligence. Quaye presents the following sole assignment of error for our review:

The trial court erroneously determined that Plaintiff failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that Defendant-Appellee Scott Davis acted negligently on August 12, 2012.

         {¶ 2} For reasons that follow, we affirm.

          I. FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         {¶ 3} On October 10, 2014, Quaye filed a complaint against the North Market Development Authority, Inc. ("North Market"), Davis, and the administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation ("BWC"). The facts giving rise to the complaint occurred on August 12, 2012, when Quaye was performing cleaning services at the North Market premises on behalf of his employer, D&J Master Clean, Inc.

         {¶ 4} Quaye alleged in the complaint he "was performing work in a utility closet" when Davis, a North Market maintenance employee, came "into the utility closet where [Quaye] was cleaning and proceeded to change the ballast or fluorescent lamp contained within the fluorescent light fixture directly above [Quaye's] head." (Oct. 10, 2014 Compl. at ¶ 14-15.) Quaye alleged that, while Davis "was replacing the ballast or fluorescent lamp he caused it to fall, striking [Quaye] in the head, " resulting in an open wound to Quaye's left scalp, a concussion, and cervical sprain and strain. (Compl. at ¶ 17.)

         {¶ 5} Quaye asserted that Davis was negligent in failing to "use ordinary care when replacing a fluorescent lamp or ballast, " and that the North Market was responsible for Davis' negligence under respondeat superior. (Compl. at ¶ 34.) Quaye also alleged that the North Market was negligent in hiring, training, supervising, and failing "to instruct its employees and agents on proper procedures when replacing a fluorescent lamp or ballast." (Compl. at ¶ 30.) Quaye stated that the BWC might have an interest in any amount Quaye recovered from defendants.

         {¶ 6} Quaye filed Davis' deposition on October 7, 2015, and defendants filed Quaye's deposition on October 9, 2015. The court held a bench trial on the matter on October 14, 2015, at which Quaye and Davis presented opposing versions of how the incident occurred.

         {¶ 7} At the time of the incident, Davis had been a North Market employee for 35 years. Davis stated that he had changed thousands of light bulbs at the North Market over that period of time. Davis described the closet where the incident occurred as a "small" janitor's closet, "probably about like 18 feet. And they * * * got shelves where they put the trash bags and the towels underneath and everything like that." (Oct. 14, 2015 Tr. at 36.) The light fixture is a "four-foot fluorescent" light fixture which hangs from the ceiling by chains. (Tr. at 128.) The light hangs "over the shelving units that are behind that door." (Tr. at 134.)

          {¶ 8} Quaye explained that, on August 12, 2012, he arrived at the North Market at 6:00 p.m. and signed his "name for the register." (Tr. at 50-51.) After he signed in, Quaye met with his supervisor who told Quaye what he was "supposed to do that day." (Tr. at 53.) Quaye proceeded to the janitor's closet to retrieve a "trash can and trash bags and a rag" in order to "start to pick up the trash and clean the tables." (Tr. at 50-51.) Once inside the closet, Quaye began gathering old, dirty "rag[s] that we ha[d] been using, " for his supervisor to take "to cleaning." (Tr. at 54-55.) At his deposition, Quaye stated that both he and his supervisor "went to the closet, " and "we're there when Scott [brought] the stepladder to the door [of the closet] that--[he] and [his] supervisor were in." (Dec. 11, 2014 Quaye Depo. at 11-12.) At trial, Quaye testified that he was "alone" and was "the only one in the closet." (Tr. at 54.)

         {¶ 9} Quaye stated that he had "laid down" to gather the rags which were on the floor, when he heard "a noise with the ladder." (Tr. at 55.) Quaye was "squat[ted] down, " when Davis "opened the door and put the ladder in" the closet. (Tr. at 95-96.) Quaye explained that Davis "just pushed the ladder and put the ladder inside. He's climbing up when I was down." (Tr. at 56-57.) Quaye tried to "raise up [his] head, " and "[a]ll the structure come down on [his] head." (Tr. at 57-58.)

         {¶ 10} Quaye "never said nothing" to Davis throughout the entire time that Davis entered the closet, set up the ladder, climbed up the ladder, and removed the light bulbs. (Tr. at 92.) Quaye stated that there was no "possible way" that Davis did not see him in the closet, as "the closet is not big. It's just a tiny closet. So immediately if you're inside the closet, you're supposed to see." (Tr. at 80.)

         {¶ 11} Quaye explained that he was "somewhere in between the edge of that ladder" and a "mop bucket, " when the accident occurred. (Tr. at 95-96.) Reviewing a diagram of the closet, Quaye identified that he was on the opposite side of the closet and "a couple of feet from where" the light was located. (Def.'s Ex. A; Tr. at 94, 101-02.) Ed Doersam, a certified electrician who fixed the light the day after the incident, explained that, because the light fixture hung over the shelves, if the light fixture "were to come down at all it would land on top of the shelving unit." (Tr. at 134.) Quaye asserted that the "entire light structure came down ...


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