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Williams v. Portage Country Club Co.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

December 13, 2017

JAMES WILLIAMS, et al. Appellants
v.
PORTAGE COUNTRY CLUB COMPANY Appellee

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CV 2015-07-3508

          ROBERT C. MEEKER and BLAISE MEEKER, Attorneys at Law, for Appellants.

          JOHN T. MURPHY and COLLEEN A. MOUNTCASTLE, Attorneys at Law, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          LYNNE S. CALLAHAN JUDGE.

         {¶1} James and Traci Williams appeal from the Summit County Common Pleas Court's grant of summary judgment to the Portage Country Club Company ("Portage Country Club"). This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} The Williamses lived at 169 Hollywood Avenue in Akron, Ohio from February 2006 until July 2013. On July 10, 2013, the greater Akron area was hit by a severe storm that caused flooding throughout the city. A portion of the Williamses' basement wall collapsed forcing them to vacate the home.

         {¶3} The backyard of 169 Hollywood abuts a golf course owned by Portage Country Club. The golf course has been at that location since 1906. Originally, it was a nine-hole course, but it was redesigned and expanded to an eighteen-hole course around 1918.

         {¶4} In 1956, Portage Country Club granted the City of Akron an easement "to construct, maintain, repair, enlarge, and reconstruct a sewer or sewers for drainage and sewerage purposes." Around that time, residential developments were built to the northeast and the west of the golf course. The storm and sanitary sewers within the easement "follow[] the natural drainage route" from the Burning Tree development on the northeast to Hollywood Avenue on the west.

         {¶5} The home at 169 Hollywood was built in 1957. It sits at a lower elevation than the golf course. The low point of the golf course, around the fifth tee and the fourth green, is adjacent to the backyards along Hollywood Avenue. The golf course, 169 Hollywood, and nearby homes "are located in a localized low area that is surrounded on all sides by higher elevations" making them "very susceptible to flooding."

         {¶6} The golf course contains multiple "risers" and catch basins to handle storm water. One of the catch basins is located in the vicinity of the fifth tee and approximately ten feet from the backyard of 169 Hollywood. At some point, the golf course's drainage system was tapped into the City's storm sewer system.

         {¶7} In 2015, the Williamses sued Portage Country Club, bringing a count for nuisance and a count for trespass. Portage Country Club moved for summary judgment. The Williamses opposed the motion and contended that Portage Country Club had unreasonably interfered with the flow of surface water by (1) tapping into the City's storm sewer without permission and (2) failing to maintain the catch basin located behind their property. After reviewing the evidentiary material submitted by each side, the trial court granted summary judgment to Portage Country Club.

         {¶8} The Williamses appeal, raising two assignments of error.

         II.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR NO. 1

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING APPELLEE'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FINDING NO GENUINE ISSUES OF FACT AND ENTITLING APPELLEE [TO] SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW UNDER THE REASONABLE-USE RULE.

         {¶9} In their first assignment of error, the Williamses argue that Portage Country Club unreasonably diverted surface water from its golf course and, thereby, caused flooding damage to their property.

         {¶10} This Court reviews an award of summary judgment de novo. Grafton v. Ohio Edison Co., 77 Ohio St.3d 102, 105 (1996). Pursuant to Civ.R. 56(C), summary judgment is proper if:

(1) No genuine issue as to any material fact remains to be litigated; (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law; and (3) it appears from the evidence that reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion, and viewing such evidence most strongly in favor of the party against whom the ...

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