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Butler v. Cleveland Clinic

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

January 11, 2018

CARLA BUTLER PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
CLEVELAND CLINIC DEFENDANT-APPELLEE

         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-16-862232

          FOR APPELLANT Carla Butler, pro se

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE David A. Valent Cleveland Clinic Law Department

          BEFORE: Blackmon, J., Keough, P.J., and Celebrezze, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          PATRICIA ANN BLACKMON, J.

         {¶1} Pro se plaintiff-appellant Carla Butler ("Butler") appeals from the order of the trial court granting summary judgment to defendant-appellee Cleveland Clinic ("Cleveland Clinic") in Butler's action for injuries sustained from a fall. Butler assigns the following error for our review:

The trial court erred in granting Cleveland Clinic's motion for summary judgement finding that the hazardous condition of the parking lot was open and obvious thereby relieving defendant of a duty to warn[.]

         {¶2} Having reviewed the record and relevant law, we affirm the trial court's decision. The apposite facts follow.

         {¶3} In her complaint for relief, Butler alleged that on October 2, 2015, she tripped and fell on a "landscaping type, raised concrete island located near the entrance to the emergency room" as she attempted to return a wheelchair. Butler alleged that the area was dark, and negligently maintained, and that she sustained serious leg injuries as a result of her fall.

         {¶4} In her deposition, Butler stated that she had taken her neighbor to the Cleveland Clinic. They parked in a lot that is separated from the building by a roadway and a raised concrete and grass barrier or island that is a few inches higher than the roadway. After the doctor visit, Butler brought her neighbor, who was in a wheelchair, back to the car through a flat walkway that cuts through the raised concrete and grass island. She returned the wheelchair back to the building, and after doing so, she decided to take a shorter path. Instead of returning to the flat walkway, she stepped up onto the concrete island, walking across the concrete and grass to get to her vehicle. Butler stated that she fell when she could not see and stepped off of the grassy area. She also maintained that the concrete portion of the island or barrier was uneven as it had a little "hill." Butler reported the incident several months later, but she did not report any hazard contributing to the fall and did not mention any lack of lighting.

         {¶5} Cleveland Clinic filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the raised concrete island was open and obvious, and that Butler had previously observed it while taking her neighbor back to the car. Additionally, Cleveland Clinic argued that when Butler reported the incident to Cleveland Clinic on January 15, 2016, she did not mention any hazard that contributed to her fall. The facilities engineer averred that he was "unable to find any evidence of any reported hazards and/or existence of any hazards during [the relevant time]." The protective services officer likewise averred that in her reports to the Cleveland Clinic, Butler did not mention any hazard that contributed to her fall. Cleveland Clinic also asserted that Butler failed to establish a link between her fall and her injuries because her physician opined that "this pain generally results from functional problems due to a deformity in the foot and ankle[.]"

         {¶6} On January 25, 2017, the trial court granted Cleveland Clinic's motion for summary judgment, concluding:

[Butler] has failed to file her brief in opposition and thus has not presented the Court with any material fact to consider. Accordingly, the Court, having carefully considered all the evidence, and having construed the evidence most strongly in favor of the nonmoving party, determines that reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion, that there are no genuine issues of material fact, and that [Cleveland Clinic] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         Review of ...


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