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Jackson v. Akron Summit County Library

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

December 29, 2017

BETTY JACKSON Appellant
v.
AKRON SUMMIT COUNTY LIBRARY Appellee

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CV 2015-09-4229

          APPEARANCES: RUSSELL SMITH, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          JAMES T. REAGAN, Attorney at Law, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          JENNIFER HENS AL FOR THE COURT

         {¶1} Betty Jackson appeals from the judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas, granting summary judgment to Akron Summit County Public Library. We affirm.

         I.

         {¶2} This appeal stems from a refiled action wherein Betty Jackson sued the Akron Summit County Public Library (the "Library") for compensatory damages related to injuries she sustained after tripping and falling on concrete outside of the Highland Square Branch Library.

         {¶3} According to Ms. Jackson, she went to the Highland Square Branch Library to use the Internet for her job. At her deposition, Ms. Jackson testified that she entered the library without incident and did not observe any hazards. She then exited the library through the same set of doors that she used upon entering, indicating that nothing obstructed the view in front of her. After taking several steps, she fell onto the concrete. Ms. Jackson testified that she did not know the cause of her fall. There was no dispute, however, that concrete slabs near where Ms. Jackson fell had "heaved, " thereby creating a roughly one-inch "ridge or lip" between the slabs, and that the branch manager had submitted a work order prior to Ms. Jackson's fall indicating that the heaved concrete posed a potential tripping hazard. There was also no dispute that an orange cone was placed outside of the Highland Square Branch Library's entrance prior to Ms. Jackson's fall.

         {¶4} The Library moved for summary judgment, arguing that: (1) it was entitled to political-subdivision immunity under Revised Code Section 2744; (2) Ms. Jackson could not establish negligence because she could not identify the cause of her fall; (3) any height differential between the concrete slabs that Ms. Jackson allegedly tripped over constituted a trivial defect; and (4) any height differential between the concrete slabs that Ms. Jackson allegedly tripped over was an open-and-obvious hazard.

         {¶5} In response, Ms. Jackson argued that: (1) the Library acted recklessly, wantonly, negligently, and willfully by not repairing the discrepancy in the concrete slab levels, by not warning patrons, and/or by not temporarily closing the Highland Square Branch Library while awaiting a repair; (2) other information that she became aware of subsequent to her deposition -including expert reports and surveillance video showing her fall - proved that the heaved concrete caused her fall[1]; (3) she was an invitee, not a licensee, for purposes of establishing the applicable duty of care; (4) the Library wrongfully caused and permitted the physical defect to remain in violation of Section 2744.02(B)(4); (5) no defenses to immunity under Section 2744.03 applied; and (6) the hazard was unlikely to be seen by someone entering the library because the raised "ridge or lip" faced the library and, upon exiting, the two sets of glass doors and the orange cone would have made it difficult for someone to see the raised concrete. Ms. Jackson also argued that a "significant height difference" existed between the concrete slabs, which created "a hidden danger."

         {¶6} The trial court granted the Library's motion, holding that the height differential between the concrete slabs was "observable[.]" It, therefore, held that the Library did not owe Ms. Jackson a duty of care, and further held that no exception to political-subdivision immunity applied. Ms. Jackson now appeals, raising one assignment of error for our review.

         II.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         * * * THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY GRANTING THE ...


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