Friday, October 19, 2012

Gladon v. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority case brief

Gladon v. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
75 Ohio St. 3d 312

Procedural History
•    The appellant transit authority (authority) contested an order of the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County (Ohio), which entered a verdict awarding appellee claimant damages arising from the authority’s operation of a rapid transit train which struck the claimant causing him serious and permanent injuries. After the trial court overruled the transit authority’s motion for a directed verdict, the jury considered the allegation of negligent operation.

-The claimant, who was lying on the railroad tracks after an alleged assault, was struck by a train, resulting in severe, permanent injury.
-The claimant filed an action against the authority, alleging that the operator was negligent by failing to bring the train to a stop after the point she perceived or should have perceived the claimant’s peril prior to striking him.

Procedural History

-The trial court instructed the jury that the claimant was an invitee, and that as a result the authority was required to use ordinary care to discover and to avoid danger.
-The trial court denied the authority’s motion for a directed verdict, the jury found for the claimant, and the trial court denied the authority’s motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.
-On appeal, the court held that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the claimant’s legal status and the authority’s corresponding duty, and that the erroneous instruction was prejudicial. Thus, the court reversed the judgment and remanded for a new trial, holding that upon entering the track area, the claimant became a trespasser as a matter of law and the authority was only liable for injuries resulting from willful or wanton conduct.

If an invitee trespasses into areas beyond the scope of the invitation, then in those areas the landowner owes no duty except to refrain from wanton or reckless conduct that would likely injure the trespassing invitee.

•    The status of an invitee is not absolute but is limited by the landowner’s invitation. The visitor has the status of an invitee only while he is on part of the land to which his invitation extends, or in other words, the part of the land upon which the possessor gives him reason to believe that his presence is desired for the purpose for which he has come. If the invitee goes outside of the area of his invitation, he becomes a trespasser or a licensee, depending upon whether he goes there without the consent of the possessor, or with such consent.
•    Where an entrant upon another’s land exceeds the scope of the landowner’s invitation, the entrant will lose the status of an invitee, and become either a licensee or trespasser.
•    In determining whether the person is a trespasser, the question whether his entry has been intentional, negligent, or purely accidental is not material, except as it may bear on the existence of a privilege. Without the consent or privilege to enter an area, the law views such entry from the aspect of the landowner whose duties to the entrant flow from the parameters of his permission to be there. As a result, the determining fact is the presence or absence of a privilege to enter or to remain on the land, and the status of an accidental trespasser is still that of a trespasser.
•    A landowner owes a duty to an invitee to exercise ordinary care for the invitee’s safety and protection. Conversely, a landowner owes no duty to a licensee or trespasser except to refrain from willful, wanton, or reckless conduct which is likely to injure him.
•    A railroad owes no duty to anticipate or prevent the presence of licensees or trespassers.
•    When a trespasser or licensee is discovered in a position of peril, a landowner is required to use ordinary care to avoid injuring him. The duty to exercise ordinary care arises after the landowner knows, or from facts within his knowledge should know or believe, that a trespasser or licensee is on the land.

"Willful vs. Wanton conduct"
-Willful conduct involves an intent, purpose, or design to injure.
-Wanton conduct involves the failure to exercise any care whatsoever toward those to whom he owes a duty of care, and his failure occurs under the circumstances in which there is great probability that harm will result.

•    The court reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded for a new trial, concluding that the trial court erroneously and prejudicially instructed the jury that the claimant was an invitee as a matter of law, and finding that in fact the claimant was a trespasser to whom the authority owed substantially less of a duty.

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