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Lack of Appeal Hurts Claimant
by Ron Davis
A failure to communicate has cost an injured Ohio shopping center customer a chance to appeal a court ruling against him.
The customer had sustained the injury at the shopping center, located in suburban Cleveland, when he fell in the center’s parking lot. Because he suffers from cerebral palsy, he had parked his car in a handicapped space near a supermarket located at the center.
A winter storm had occurred the previous day, and the snowplows had piled snow up to six feel high in islands throughout the shopping center property. As a result, some parking spaces, including the one used by the customer, provided only about a foot of maneuvering room for occupants of cars when they opened their doors to get out.
The customer was able to exit his vehicle without incident, however. But after taking a couple of steps toward the supermarket, he fell for no apparent reason. He later stated that he did not at any time touch any of the piles of snow, nor, he added, did he slip on any icy spot in the parking lot.
He nevertheless charged that “the manner in which the snow was piled made it difficult for me to freely exit my automobile, and that as a result I was unable to maneuver in the tight space between the car and the snow bank, causing me to lose my balance and fall.”
In response, the shopping center owners asked the courts to dismiss the lawsuit without a trial on grounds that the evidence failed to show any negligence on their part.
The court agreed with the owners and granted their request.
Instead of properly appealing the case within the time limits prescribed by law, however, the injured customer allowed the deadline to pass. He then argued that although he was aware of the deadline, he never received a written notice of it.
The courts rejected that argument, stating, “Ignoring a deadline, doing nothing to extend that deadline, and expecting a court to later relieve one from any ensuing judgment under law for that failure is a complete disregard of the judicial system.” (Morgan v. Sheffield Enterprises, Ltd., 2004 WL 384172 [Ohio App.9 Dist.])
Decision: March 2004
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