Rosenbrook v. Lucas Cty. Bd. of Commrs., Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, Lucas County
This case arose when the plaintiff slip and fell on a floor mat at the Lucas County Ohio courthouse. She and her husband brought suit against the County and the Court found that summary judgment was proper for the County because the negligence claims stemming from the slip and fall accident that occurred failed to establish an exception to the county’s immunity under R.C. 2744.02(B)(4), and further failed to identify the cause of the fall as required under the general laws of negligence. The county argued that the plaintiff did not allege any facts that would strip appellant of its statutorily imposed governmental immunity.
As stated by the Ohio Supreme Court, a “three-tiered analysis” is used to determine whether a political subdivision is immune from liability. Under the first tier, we examine whether the general grant of immunity provided by R.C. 2744.02(A) applies. If it does, the second tier requires us to determine whether immunity has been abrogated by the exceptions set forth in R.C. 2744.02(B). If an exception applies, the third tier involves a determination of whether the political subdivision is able to successfully assert one of the defenses listed in R.C. 2744.03, thereby reinstating its immunity.
R.C. 2744.02(B)(4) abrogates the general immunity afforded political subdivisions engaged in a governmental activity only if an injury is: 1) caused by employee negligence, 2) on the grounds or in buildings used in connection [with] that governmental activity, and 3) due to physical defects on or within those grounds or buildings.
In order to establish employee negligence, appellants must show the existence of a duty, a breach of that duty, and an injury proximately resulting from the breach. As a threshold matter, the Court had to determine the appropriate duty of care owed to the plaintiff. To determine the duty of care owed in premises liability actions, the Court examined the relationship between the owner or occupier of the premises and the injured party and found that the plaintiff was a licensee to whom the county owed no duty except to refrain from willfully or wantonly causing injury. The Court further found that plaintiff failed to show that there was no evidence of willful or wanton misconduct surrounding the County’s handling of the floor mats.
This case is in line with others that have been decided involving similar facts. In slip and fall cases, it is very difficult – if not impossible, to overcome the immunity defense of political subdivisions. If you think that you may have an Ohio premises liability action against a State of Ohio political subdivision, it is important to speak with an Ohio premises liability attorney who can help you decide if you have a case that is worth pursuing.