Dismissal of sidewalk injury suit is upheld

People should beware of obvious sidewalk hazards, the appeals court says.


YOUNGSTOWN — A magistrate was correct in dismissing a lawsuit by a woman who said she was injured when she tripped on a water shutoff valve cap that protruded slightly above a Canfield sidewalk, the 7th District Court of Appeals has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously ruled on Monday upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Susan Dobranchin of Hubbard against Paul and Patricia Balciar, the city of Canfield and its water department, and PLGR Enterprises, the sidewalk builders.

On the morning of April 24, 2004, Dobranchin fell on the Oak Tree Drive sidewalk, suffering facial, hand and knee injuries and multiple fractures of her right wrist. The Balciars were among several residents of that street conducting garage sales that day.

Magistrate Eugene Fehr of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court dismissed the case because of “the open and obvious nature of the hazard.” Judge James C. Evans of that court upheld Fehr’s ruling.

“The owner of the premises owes no duty to others with respect to dangers that are so apparent that any person would be expected to discover the danger and protect against the condition,” the appeals court ruled.

Concerning the Balciars, the appeals judges added that an “abutting owner is not responsible for the disrepair of a sidewalk in front of his premises unless its condition is brought about by his wrongful conduct.”

The court ruling was written by Judge Cheryl L. Waite, with Judges Gene Donofrio and Mary DeGenaro concurring.