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Failing To Warn Motorists of Roadway Hazardous Conditions or Obstructions Is Not an Immunity Exception

In the case of Powell v. Cleveland, 2022-Ohio-4286, the appellate court held that a city was not liable for injuries sustained by an individual who crashed their motorcycle while attempting to avoid an untapered steel plate in a roadway next to a dip in the road as there was neither the “hazardous condition” nor “obstruction” necessary to trigger the narrow R.C. 2744.02(B)(3) exception to the city’s general grant of immunity under R.C. Chapter 2744. The appellate court also held that the “failure to warn” of either hazardous conditions or obstructions is not an exception to immunity.

In this case, the injured motorcyclist argued the roadway was a hazardous condition due to the presence of a dip in the roadway and because the steel plate in the roadway was not tapered. The injured motorcyclist also argued that the steel plate and dip blocked and clogged the roadway and that the city failed to warn motorists of these hazardous conditions and obstructions. In response, the city argued that there is no requirement that such steel plates must be tapered, the steel plate did not create a hazard, the dip in the road was a normal condition, neither the plate nor dip either blocked or clogged the roadway, and the failure to warn in not an exception to immunity. The appellate court agreed with the city.

In support of its decision, the appellate court explained that there was no hazardous condition as “[n]atural wear and tear, and road dips or depressions are conditions that motorists encounter in the normal and everyday travel of streets in and around the city” and the steel plate did not cause an additional hazard. 2022-Ohio-4286 at ¶ 40. The appellate court further explained that there was no obstruction as neither the plate nor dip either blocked or clogged the roadway. The appellate court then explained that “[t]he exception found in R.C. 2744.02(B)(3) only removes immunity under two instances — (1) negligent failure to keeps roads in repair; and (2) negligent failure to remove obstructions” and, because “[n]either of these exceptions involve a negligent failure to warn of conditions that are not considered hazardous conditions or obstructions,” “a failure to warn of conditions that are outside the scope of R.C. 2744.02(B)(3) cannot abrogate a city’s immunity.” 2022-Ohio-4286 at ¶ 55.

WARNING: The holding in this case as to the roadway hazardous conditions and obstructions was based upon the undisputed material facts in this case. The outcome may have been much different had the facts been different.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.



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