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Kohler v. Runinmuck

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, Ottawa

December 20, 2019

Denise Kohler Appellant
v.
Camp Runinmuck, et al. Appellees

          Trial Court No. 17CV186

          Richard L. Demsey, Justin D. Gould, Paul W. Flowers, and Louis E. Grube, for appellant.

          Brian A. Newberg, for appellees.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT

          ZMUDA, J.

         I. Introduction

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Denise Kohler, [1] appeals the judgment of the Ottawa County Court of Common Pleas, which granted summary judgment to appellees, Camp Runinmuck, The New Generation, Inc., Camp Runinmuck Campers Association, and Camp Runinmuck Lodge, on appellant's premises liability claim. Because we find that the trial court properly concluded that appellant's claim was precluded under the open and obvious doctrine, we affirm.

         A. Facts and Procedural Background

         {¶ 2} The incident that gave rise to this premises liability action took place on June 6, 2015. On that date, appellant visited a restaurant at Camp Runinmuck in Marblehead, Ohio. Appellant was accompanied by her friend, Mario Bandiera. The two arrived at approximately 6 p.m. Upon arrival, Mario dropped appellant at the entrance and proceeded to park his vehicle. The two ate dinner together, and departed approximately three to three and one-half hours later. Appellant consumed one glass of wine during dinner.

         {¶ 3} After exiting the restaurant, appellant and Mario proceeded to Mario's vehicle. Wanting to use the restroom before leaving, appellant returned to the restaurant. According to appellant it was "fully dark" outside by the time she left the restaurant. Appellant's mobile phone was equipped with a flashlight function with which appellant was familiar, but appellant indicated that she did not feel the need to use it on the night of the incident because the parking lot was adequately lit. Appellant indicated during her deposition that she was not concerned with the lighting in and around the area where the cart was located. Additionally, appellant responded in the affirmative when asked whether she believed that the area where the cart was located was "sufficiently lit for [her] to be able to safely proceed." Later on, appellant stated that "[t]here was no problem" with respect to the lighting conditions in the area where the cart was located, but she stated that the exterior light was shining into her eyes as she walked toward the restaurant.

         {¶ 4} On her way to Mario's vehicle, appellant passed a large stationary cart that was located in the parking lot outside of the restaurant. The cart was approximately five feet long and four feet wide. The cart was carrying an orange and black bin that took up much of the surface area of the cart. However, the edges of the cart protruded out from the bin on each side. The cart surface was gray with a red rim along the edge on every side. Although she acknowledged walking past the cart, appellant stated that she did not see the cart, but she admitted that would have been able to see the cart had she looked in its direction.

         {¶ 5} On her way back to the restaurant, appellant struck her left shin on the corner of the cart, causing her to fall. Appellant testified that she was looking toward the door at the time of her fall. Appellant acknowledged that there were no pedestrians or automobile traffic in the area at the time, and that her attention was not diverted prior to the fall.

         {¶ 6} After striking the cart with her shin, appellant reached out her left arm in order to break her fall. As a result of her efforts, appellant suffered a fracture to her left elbow, causing severe pain and leading to the tearing of her cartilage in that joint. Appellant's injuries ultimately forced her to undergo outpatient surgery and physical therapy.

         {¶ 7} Almost two years after her fall at Camp Runinmuck, appellant filed a complaint with the trial court on June 5, 2017, in which she asserted a premises liability claim against appellees, Camp Runinmuck, The New Generation, Inc., Camp Runinmuck Campers Association, and Camp Runinmuck Lodge. On June 30, 2017, appellees filed their answer, in which they generally denied the allegations raised in appellant's complaint and asserted several affirmative defenses. Of particular relevance to this appeal, appellees asserted that the condition complained of in appellant's complaint (i.e. the cart) was open and obvious.

         {¶ 8} Following discovery, appellees filed their motion for summary judgment on October 3, 2018. In their motion, appellees argued that they had no duty to appellant with respect to the cart on which appellant struck her shin, because the cart was an open and obvious hazard. Further, appellees urged that there were no attendant ...


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