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Seaton v. City of Willoughby

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

January 10, 2018

SHARON W. SEATON, Administrator Appellee
v.
CITY OF WILLOUGHBY, et al. Appellant

         APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. CV-2014-01-0168

          JAMES A. CLIMER, JOHN T. MCLANDRICH, FRANK H. SCIALDONE, and JOHN D. PINZONE, Attorneys at Law, for Appellant.

          CHRISTIAN PATNO and COLIN R. RAY, Attorneys at Law, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          DONNA J. CARR, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Appellant, the City of Willoughby, appeals the judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. This Court affirms.

         I.

         {¶2} This matter arises out of the tragic death of Shawn Wilson on June 11, 2012. Wilson was dispatched to work on a paving project through the course of his employment with the Willoughby Street Department. The crew began patching potholes at the bottom of a hill on Strawberry Lane, a residential street in Willoughby. On that particular day, Wilson was operating an asphalt roller known as the Maudlin Brothers Model 1450. When the crew reached the top of the hill, the group of vehicles working on the project inadvertently blockaded the driveway of a resident attempting to access the street. Wilson moved the asphalt roller forward to allow the resident to exit his driveway. Unexpectedly, the roller began to roll down an incline at a high rate of speed. Wilson could not stop the roller as it careened out of control. When he attempted to jump off the machine to safety, he struck his head on the pavement. He subsequently died from his injuries.

         {¶3} On January 14, 2014, Sharon W. Seaton, as the Administrator of the Estate of Shawn Wilson, filed a complaint against numerous defendants, including the City of Willoughby ("the City"). The complaint contained claims for survivorship and wrongful death. With leave of court, Seaton filed an amended complaint in April 2015. The City filed an answer generally denying the allegations in the complaint and setting forth numerous defenses, including that the City was immune from liability under R.C. 4123.74. While the Seaton's claims against the City endured, the claims against the other defendants were eventually dismissed from the action.

         {¶4} On January 7, 2016, the City filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that it was entitled to workers compensation immunity under R.C. 4123.74 as to the survivorship and wrongful death claims. The City further maintained that the employer intentional tort exception to immunity was not applicable under the facts of this case. Seaton filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion and the City replied thereto. Seaton was permitted to file a sur-reply brief. The trial court ultimately denied the motion for summary judgment, concluding that there was a question of fact as to whether the City deliberately removed a safety guard from the asphalt roller.

         {¶5} On appeal, the City raises one assignment of error.

         II.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

         THE LOWER COURT ERRED WHEN IT DENIED THE APPELLANT/CITY OF WILLOUGHBY THE BENEFIT OF IMMUNITY UNDER R.C. CHAPTER 4123.

         {¶6} In its sole assignment of error, the City contends that the trial court erred when it denied the motion for ...


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