from the Court of Claims of Ohio Ct. of Cl. No. 2016-00883JD
and Swope, and Richard F Swope, for appellant.
Yost, Attorney General, and Christopher P. Conomy, for
Richard F. Swope.
1} Plaintiff-appellant, Herman Harris, Jr., appeals
a judgment of the Court of Claims of Ohio in favor of
defendant-appellee, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and
Correction, following a trial on liability. For the following
reasons, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
2} On May 2, 2016, appellant, an inmate at the
Pickaway Correctional Institution, was working in the central
food service area of the facility. As part of his work
responsibilities, appellant was assigned the task of moving a
quantity of frozen food from a freezer to a food waste pulper
for disposal. Appellant loaded the frozen food onto sheet
pans and placed the sheet pans on a movable rack. The rack
was a little over six feet high and approximately two feet
wide. The rack was mounted on four wheels. Each wheel could
swivel. Appellant was pushing the loaded rack from the area
of the freezer to the food waste pulper, a distance of
approximately 25 yards. Due to its height, the rack partially
obstructed appellant's view as he pushed it towards the
food pulper. Appellant had not performed this task before.
3} As appellant approached the pulper, one of the
front wheels on the rack rolled down into a recessed covered
floor drain causing the rack to tilt. The drain cover was
recessed below the surface of the surrounding floor by less
than two inches. As the rack tilted, the sheet pans began to
slide off the rack. Appellant attempted to block the sheet
pans from sliding completely off the rack but the entire rack
tipped over onto him. Appellant sustained injuries as a
result of the accident.
4} Appellant brought a negligence claim against
appellee alleging that appellee failed to exercise reasonable
care by not repairing the defective drain or warning him of
the hazard. The trial court bifurcated the issues of
liability and damages, and a magistrate held an evidentiary
hearing solely on the issue of liability. The magistrate
found that the recessed drain cover was defective and created
an unreasonable risk of harm. However, the magistrate found
no liability on the part of appellee based on appellant's
failure to prove that appellee had actual or constructive
knowledge of the hazard.
5} Appellant filed objections to the
magistrate's decision. Following a de novo review, the
trial court agreed with the magistrate that the pictures of
the drain cover reflected a defect but that appellant failed
to prove appellee had actual or constructive knowledge of the
hazard prior to appellant's accident. Therefore, the
trial court overruled appellant's objections and adopted
the magistrate's findings of fact and conclusions of
Appellant appeals, assigning the following errors:
[1.] The trial court and the magistrate erred in sustaining
an objection to a relevant admissible question concerning
maintenance and work orders ...