Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Lake
Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Case No.
2017 CV 001439.
D. McGraw, (For Plaintiff-Appellant).
Nicholson and Mark A. Greer, Gallagher Sharp LLP, (For
TIMOTHY P. CANNON, P.J.
Appellant, Diane Stokes ("Stokes"), appeals from
the summary judgment ruling in favor of appellee, Lake
Property Management, LLC ("Lake Property"), on all
claims in her complaint. The judgment was entered by the Lake
County Court of Common Pleas on May 10, 2018. For the
following reasons, the trial court's judgment is
Lake Property owns a commercial building, in which the
company's office is located. Several commercial tenants
are also located in the building, including Marino's Hair
Design ("Marino's"). Marino's has been a
tenant for more than seventeen years, since before Lake
Property purchased the building in 2012.
Before 2013, most of Marino's clients entered the
building through a front door, facing the roadway. During
that year, Lake Property's managing partner, Mark Cain,
paid for the installation of a back door. Marino's
customers were able to use the rear parking lot and enter the
building through this back door. The back door opens to a
common hallway; an entrance to Marino's is located in
The incident involving Stokes occurred in December 2014. At
that time, Stokes had been a client of Marino's for five
years, where she had an appointment approximately once a
week. Stokes is elderly and uses a walker. Although there is
a handicap accessible parking area and entrance near
Marino's front door, Stokes consistently used the rear
parking lot and entrance after the rear door was installed.
On the day at issue, Stokes parked in the rear lot and, using
her walker, entered the building through the rear door
without incident. Following her appointment, Stokes exited
Marino's through the common hallway to the rear door.
After opening the door with her right hand, Stokes used her
left hand to push her walker through the doorway. According
to Stokes, the door closed quickly and hit her backside,
which caused her to fall over the walker and land on the
parking lot asphalt. Stokes suffered injuries to multiple
parts of her body, including her face, neck, and shoulder.
Stokes filed a three-count complaint against Lake Property,
alleging (1) negligent installation and maintenance of the
rear door, (2) negligent failure to warn, and (3) creating
and maintaining a nuisance. In part, Stokes alleges Lake
Property was aware that the rear door was difficult to open
and closed too quickly but did nothing to remedy the problem.
Lake Property moved for summary judgment, advancing three
arguments. First, Lake Property argued that, as a commercial
landlord, it only owed Stokes a duty to refrain from willful
and wanton misconduct, and Stokes had not produced any
evidence meeting this high standard. Second, Lake Property
argued Stokes failed to produce any evidence that it had
notice of any allegedly hazardous condition on the property.
Finally, Lake Property argued that, to the extent Stokes
alleges the door was defective, she admittedly knew of the
alleged danger and continued to use the door at her own
In response, Stokes argued that Lake Property owed her a duty
of ordinary care because she was its "business invitee
by implied invitation" and because she was a
"frequenter" of the building. She maintained that
Lake Property had breached its duty of ordinary care.
Further, in relation to her prior knowledge of the danger
posed by the door, Stokes referenced her deposition, in which
she testified the door had closed much quicker when she
exited the building that day than it ever had in the past.
The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Lake
Property. The court held that Stokes was a licensee, but not
a "frequenter"; there was no evidence that Lake
Property had engaged in willful and wanton misconduct; and,
even if Stokes was a business invitee, she had prior
knowledge of the door's alleged condition.
Stokes noticed an appeal from this judgment and raises nine
assignments of error for our review:
[1.] The trial court committed reversible error in
determining that [Lake Property] was a commercial landlord
out of possession and control of the place of injury.
[2.] The court committed reversible error in determining that
there was no evidence before the court that [Lake Property]
was in possession and control of the area of the injury.
[3.] The trial court committed reversible error in
determining that [Stokes] was not a business invitee of [Lake
Property] by implied invitation.
[4.] The trial court committed reversible error in finding
that [Stokes] was not a frequenter of the building * * *
[5.] The trial court committed reversible error in finding
that [Lake Property's] only duty of care was to refrain
from willfully and wantonly injuring plaintiff.
[6.] The trial court committed reversible error in finding
there was no evidence [Lake Property] behaved in a willful
and/or wanton manner.
[7.] The trial court committed reversible error in finding
that [Stokes'] claims fail because she had prior
knowledge of the door.
[8.] The trial court committed reversible error in failing to
rule on [Stokes'] third cause of action for nuisance in
its Judgment Entry granting ...