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Hopkins v. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 20, 2019

FATIHA HOPKINS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant-Appellee.

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-17-888140

          Cavitch, Familo & Durkin Co., L.P.A, Komlavi Atsou, Spencer E. Krebs, and Cory J. Martinson, for appellant

          Shawn M. Mallamad, for appellee.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          LARRY A. JONES, SR., JUDGE.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Fatiha Hopkins ("Hopkins"), appeals the trial court's decision granting summary judgment in favor of defendant-appellee, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority ("RTA"). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} Hopkins filed suit against RTA alleging that it was liable to her as the result of a slip and fall on an RTA bus. RTA moved for summary judgment and the matter proceeded to a hearing on RTAs motion. The court subsequently granted RTAs motion for summary judgment, with a written opinion, finding that there were no genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment.

         {¶ 3} On March 3, 2017, Hopkins walked from work to the RTA bus stop at East 93rd Street and Euclid Avenue. Hopkins said that it was "raining a little bit" during her walk and the ground was wet. Hopkins boarded the bus, but did not remember whether the steps were wet when she boarded. Hopkins likewise could not remember if the bus floor was wet when she paid her fare or when she walked to her seat. She testified that nothing prevented her from looking down at the floor to assess its condition; she just "didn't look down." She also did not notice the wet floor during the 15 - 20 minute bus ride. She testified that she "didn't pay attention to" the bus floor.

         (¶ 4} As the bus approached her stop, but prior to the bus stopping, Hopkins rose from her seat and walked toward the front of the bus. As Hopkins walked to the bus door, she slipped and fell and sustained injuries.

         {¶ 5} RTA buses are equipped with mobile video system CCTV cameras and digital recorders. The cameras are stationary and positioned in eight locations, capturing views of the interior and exterior perimeter of the bus. The surveillance video that was submitted into evidence showed that there was patchy snow on the ground outside. The floor near the front of the bus appears wet, but there is no visible accumulation of water, such as a puddle.

         {¶ 6} David Coleman testified at deposition that he was the second driver of the bus on the day in question. As a replacement driver, he was not required to conduct a full precheck inspection of the bus. Coleman initially testified that he did not see the wet floor in his bus on the day Hopkins fell. He knew, however, that the floor was wet "because of the weather." He assumed his passengers would see the wet floor themselves, but if he had seen water on the floor that appeared unsafe, "I would tell my passenger."

         {¶ 7} After viewing the video of the incident during his deposition, Coleman clarified that when he got on the bus to relieve the other driver, he looked "up and down" the bus to inspect it and did not see anything wrong. He could see from the video, however, that the bus floor was wet. He further testified that he often tells his passengers to stay seated until he stops, "but they don't listen." He did not tell Hopkins on the day of the accident to "stay seated" because he did not see her walking to the front of the bus before he stopped the bus. In his opinion, Hopkins would not have slipped and fell even though the floor was wet if she had waited until he stopped to get up from her seat. Finally, Coleman testified that he did not warn passengers of the wet floor because he did not consider the wet floor an unsafe condition: "It's normal * * * [p]eople are going to track snow in and it's going to melt and it's going to set in between [the grooves] on the floor."

         Assignments of Error

         I. The trial court erred by ruling that the open and obvious doctrine discharges Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority ("RTA" or "GCRTA"), a common carrier, from its duty to remove and/or warn Plaintiff-Appellant, Fatiha Hopkins ("Hopkins"), a passenger, of dangerous conditions known to RTA.

         II. The trial court erred in granting RTAs Motion for Summary Judgment on Hopkins's claim for negligence because there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether ...


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