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Clay v. U-Haul Co. of Massachusetts and Ohio Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 2, 2019

REBECCA CLAY, Plaintiff,
v.
U-HAUL COMPANY OF MASSACHUSETTS AND OHIO INC., Defendant.

          Kimberly A. Jolson Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          EDMUND A. SARGUS, JR. JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant U-Haul Company of Massachusetts and Ohio Incorporated's, ("Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 26). Plaintiff Rebecca Clay ("Plaintiff') has responded (ECF No. 29) and Defendant has replied (ECF No. 30). Thus, the motion is ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED (ECF No. 26).

         I.

         Defendant owns and rents to customers storage units located at 1921 Riverway Drive, Lancaster, Ohio 43130 (the "Lancaster Facility"). (Compl. ¶4, ECF No. 4.) Plaintiff has been Defendant's customer since May 9, 2017, when Plaintiff began renting a storage unit from Defendant in the Lancaster Facility. (Id.) This action arises out of Defendant's alleged negligence in failing "to provide adequate illumination throughout [Plaintiffs unit], including but not limited to within the interior of the unit[] in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of its tenants including Plaintiff." (Compl. ¶ 10.)

         A. The Lancaster Facility's Lighting

         The Lancaster Facility has permanent lighting at the bottom of the stairs which lead to Plaintiffs unit. (Ferrando Dep. 102:11-14, ECF No. 29-1.) Additionally, there are lights suspended into the ceiling that are activated by motion sensors. (Id. at 21:4-8, 59:3-4.) The motion sensors are activated whenever movement is detected. (Id. at 102:1-22.) "[T]hey are designed to come on as you walk down the hallway," and "generally, a wave of the hand will turn [them] on." (Id. at 103:1-5.) When there is no motion, these lights stay on for about "[f]ive minutes and a few seconds.". (Id. at 59:15-21.) The individual storage units have no internal lighting that a tenant can control. (Id. at 21:1-4.) Additionally, there are no windows or skylights in the climate-controlled area. (Id. at 52:14-19.)

         When a customer first rents a unit, one of Defendant's employees walks the customer to their unit and back. (Id. at 104:7-21.) During this process "the customer can [] see that there are []not lights that stay on for 24 hours. They know that they are on some type of motion detection." (Id. at 105:20-23.)

         The General Manager of the facility periodically conducts walk-around inspections of the Lancaster Facility and visually inspects the lights. (Id. at 99:22-100:2.) If a light bulb requires replacement, the General Manager informs maintenance so that it is addressed. (Id. at 100:3-12.) The General Manager has never seen lights malfunction in any way during the seven years he has worked at the facility. (Id. at 98:1-99:10, 100:19-24.)

         B. Plaintiff's Experience Prior to February 5, 2018

         Plaintiff used her unit to store equipment for her business. (Clay Dep. 27:16-21, ECF No. 29-1.) She manages a photo booth. (Id. at 16:11-15.) She kept her storage unit "pretty full." (Id. at 28:1-3.) Prior to February 5, 2018, Plaintiff had been to her unit approximately six times. (Id. at 28:17.) She visited her unit to "get the items [she] would need for ... the event," that would use her photo both. (Id. at 28:18-22.) On these six prior occasions her daughter-in-law had always accompanied her. (Id. at 29:22.)

         During these visits Plaintiff noticed that the lights did not always stay on. (Id. at 29:12-13.) She noticed the motion detection lights would dim and her daughter-in-law had to go into the hallway to wave her arms. (Id. at 29:15-30:2.) The lights would then come back on. (Id.) In these moments when the lights would go off it was "like dusk," and Plaintiff could still see. (Id. at 30:13-14.) Neither she nor her daughter had ever fallen on these prior occasions. (Id. At 28:23-25, 30:3-5.)

         C. Plaintiffs Experience on February 5, 2018

         On February 5, 2018, Plaintiff went to her unit with her son to gather photo both items for a Valentine's Day dance at a church. (Id. at 35:1, 12-20.) Plaintiff and her son moved some items into the hallway, including a table, though nothing was blocking her walking path within the storage unit. (Id. at 38:20-23, 43:4-9.) After her ...


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