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Salser v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

Court of Claims of Ohio

September 15, 2017


          Sent to S.C. Reporter 10/23/17

          Jeanna V. Jacobus Assistant Attorney General.

          Gary Peterson Magistrate Judge.



         {¶1} On June 5, 2017, defendant filed a motion pursuant to Civ.R. 56(B) for summary judgment. On July 3, 2017, plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition.

         {¶2} Civ.R. 56(C) states, in part, as follows:

         {¶3} "Summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, written admissions, affidavits, transcripts of evidence, and written stipulations of fact, if any, timely filed in the action, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. No evidence or stipulation may be considered except as stated in this rule. A summary judgment shall not be rendered unless it appears from the evidence or stipulation, and only from the evidence or stipulation, that reasonable minds can 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 or stipulation construed most strongly in the party's favor." See also Gilbert v. Summit Cty., 104 Ohio St.3d 660, 2004-Ohio-7108, citing Temple v. Wean United, Inc., 50 Ohio St.2d 317 (1977).

         {¶4} According to the complaint, plaintiff is an inmate in the custody and control of defendant at the Warren Correctional Institution (WCI). The complaint provides that in October 2015, plaintiff was assigned to work in the prison chow hall where the food service operation is performed by Aramark, a private company. The complaint goes on to provide that the chow hall has tile floors and that water from cleaning and cooking regularly covers the floors. As a consequence of the water on the floor, a "detail crew" conducts spot-mopping for safety and there are numerous "wet floor" signs in the area. Plaintiff alleges in the complaint that Aramark employees are provided with non-slip shoes for their safety whereas requests from inmates to be accommodated with similar shoes have been denied. Plaintiff states that the "state shoes" that defendant does provide have little or no grip and are extremely slippery on the chow hall floor.

         {¶5} Plaintiff alleges that on October 8, 2016, while working his shift, he encountered a wet floor that was not marked with signs or a mop bucket, and as a result, slipped and fell. Plaintiff was wearing his own personal boots at the time. Plaintiff suffered an "A.C. tear in his right shoulder." Plaintiff brings this action for negligence.

         {¶6} Defendant moves for summary judgment, arguing that it was not negligent and that its actions did not proximately cause plaintiffs alleged injury. In support, defendant submitted affidavits from Corrections Officer Cody Barrett, Warden Chae Harris, Corrections Officer Mark Sims, and Business Administrator Dawn Vencill. All of the individuals are employed by defendant at WCI.

         {¶7} Barrett avers that on October 8, 2016, he was doing security rounds in the food service area when he was called to the dish room "car wash" area where plaintiff was lying on the floor. Barrett states that plaintiff alleged that he had slipped and fallen. Barrett contacted medical to check on plaintiff. Barrett asserts that on the date of the accident, plaintiff was assigned to work in food service as a cook, plaintiff did not need to be in the dish room, and plaintiff was therefore out of place.

         {¶8} According to Barrett, "[t]here was, and always is, a wet floor sign displayed in the area where [plaintiff] fell because the floor is often wet. This is the area where inmates wash dishes so it is inherently wet. Given that there are dishes being cleaned in the dish room, the floor is wetter in the dish room than it is in the area where the cooks cook." Affidavit ¶ 4. As a result, there are 5-7 inmates working in food service whose sole responsibility it is to mop the floors and keep them in the best possible condition while the inmates are working. Barrett further provides that the dish room floor is "a rough, concrete-as opposed to a smooth tile-which helps the inmate keep traction with the floor." Id. at ¶ 5.

         {¶9} Finally, Barrett avers that "[b]efore this incident, no inmate working in food service had ever said anything to me about a concern that their shoes were inadequate at preventing slipping. I have never seen or heard of another inmate slipping and falling because of slippery floors in food service." Id. at ¶ 8.

         {¶10} Warden Harris avers that he has never received any communication from plaintiff or other inmates regarding the adequacy of footwear while working in food service at WCI. Regarding the flooring, Warden Harris provides that the flooring in the area of the dish tank is an epoxy, non-slip floor that helps inmates keep traction between their shoes and the floor. Additionally, wet floor signs are placed around food service to remind inmates to be careful, and galosh style boots are available for inmates to wear while working. Warden Harris adds that several inmates work in food service to clean up water on the floor. Finally, Warden Harris avers that there is no ...

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