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Reeves v. St. Leonard

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

September 1, 2017

CLIFFORD REEVES, et al. Plaintiffs-Appellants
ST. LEONARD, et al. Defendants-Appellees

         Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Court T.C. NO. 16-CV-1736

          AARON G. DURDEN, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellants.

          C. JESSICA PRATT, Attorney for Defendants-Appellees.


          FROELICH, J.

         {¶ 1} Clifford and Deborah Reeves[1] appeal from a judgment of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, which granted summary judgment to St. Leonard, Franciscan Living Communities, and The Franciscan at St. Leonard's (collectively, "the St. Leonard Defendants"). For the following reasons, the trial court's judgment will be affirmed.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} Between November 2014 and April 2015, Clifford Reeves was a member of The Franciscan Center, a fitness center at St. Leonard's residential community, and he attended two or three times per week to participate in yoga classes. At 12:50 p.m. on April 9, 2015, Reeves arrived at The Franciscan Center for a 1:00 p.m. yoga class. Reeves entered the front door, walked across the short (approximate four feet) carpeted area to the front desk in the lobby area, and signed in. Reeves then walked past the front desk and toward the hallway to get to the yoga class. As Reeves stepped off the carpet onto the hardwood flooring, he slipped and fell. At the time of Reeves's fall, an employee, Brandy Gillispie, was mopping the floor in the large lobby area. Reeves had noticed Gillispie, but had not seen any "wet floor" signs.

         {¶ 3} Several individuals came to Reeves's aid after his fall. Reeves was transported to the hospital by ambulance. He apparently suffered serious injuries to his right knee, right hip, right shoulder, head, and back.

         {¶ 4} In April 2016, the Reeveses brought a personal injury action against the St. Leonard Defendants. The St. Leonard Defendants subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that (1) Reeves was aware that the floor was being mopped and (2) an employee had placed adequate warning signs notifying Reeves of the danger of wet floors. The St. Leonard Defendants supported their motion with the deposition transcripts of Reeves and Gillispie and the affidavits of Janis Loomis, another participant in the yoga class, and Jack Harless, Director of Wellness at The Franciscan Center.

         {¶ 5} The Reeveses opposed the motion, arguing that attendant circumstances caused him not to see the "wet floor signs and that Gillispie created a hazard that caused his injuries. Reeves attached unauthenticated photographs of the lobby area, his own affidavit, and the affidavit of his attorney.

         {¶ 6} On February 10, 2017, the trial court granted the St. Leonard Defendants' summary judgment motion. The trial court described the issue before it as "whether Mr. Reeves himself was aware of the hazard posed by the wet floor and/or Defendants adequately discharged their obligations to warn Mr. Reeves of that hazard, thus making the floor's hazardous condition open and obvious." The trial court rejected Reeves's claim that attendant circumstances existed to reduce his care, stating that Reeves had provided "no specifics" as to anything that may have distracted his attention from the freshly mopped floor. The trial court further concluded that the hazard posed by the wet floor was open and obvious, reasoning that Reeves had seen Gillispie mopping the floor before he fell and there was no genuine issue of material fact that visible "wet floor signs were in place prior to Reeves's fall. The trial court found "not well taken" Reeves's attempts to "discredit" the testimony of Loomis and Gillispie that "wet floor" signs were in close proximity to where Reeves fell.

         {¶ 7} The Reeveses appeal from the trial court's judgment.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         {¶ 8} Pursuant to Civ.R. 56(C), summary judgment is proper when (1) there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and (3) reasonable minds, after construing the evidence most strongly in favor of the nonmoving party, can only conclude adversely to that party. Zivich v. Mentor Soccer Club, Inc.,82 Ohio St.3d 367, 369-370, 696 N.E.2d 201 (1998). The moving party carries the initial burden of affirmatively demonstrating that no genuine issue of material fact remains to be litigated. Mitseff v. Wheeler,38 Ohio St.3d 112, 115, 526 N.E.2d 798 (1988). To this end, the movant must be able to point to ...

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