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Brooks v. Seaton Place Homeowners Association, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

June 16, 2017

FRANCES BROOKS APPELLANT
v.
SEATON PLACE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., WILLIAM GREENWELL, TASHA GREENWELL, JEFF SCHNEIDER, Individually, ALLIE RICHARDSON AKA ALLI RICHARDSON, Individually, and SANDY KENNEDY, Individually APPELLEES

         APPEAL FROM JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE A. C. MCKAY CHAUVIN, JUDGE ACTION NO. 14-CI-002507

          BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Richard J. Head Louisville, Kentucky.

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEES: SEATON PLACE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., JEFF SCHNEIDER, INDIVIDUALLY AND ALLIE RICHARSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND COCOUNSEL FOR SANDY KENNEDY David Barnes Louisville, Kentucky WILLIAM GREENWELL and TASHA GREENWELL David L. Sage Louisville, Kentucky SANDY KENNEDY Michael E. Krauser, Co-Counsel.

          BEFORE: COMBS, D. LAMBERT AND THOMPSON, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          COMBS, JUDGE.

         This case originated as a personal injury action arising out of alleged negligence. Frances Brooks appeals from the summary judgment of the Jefferson Circuit Court entered in favor of William and Tasha Greenwell; Seaton Place Homeowners Association, Inc. ("the HOA"); and Jeff Schneider, Alli Richardson, and Sandy Kennedy - volunteer board members of the neighborhood homeowners' association.

         Brooks filed a negligence action against the Greenwells, the HOA, and its directors and officers after she fell on a public sidewalk adjacent to the Greenwells' property. The circuit court determined that none of the defendants owed a duty of care to Brooks under the circumstances and that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. After our review, we affirm.

         On the morning of June 1, 2013, Brooks attended a community-wide yard sale in the Seaton Place neighborhood, a planned community developed in the 1990's by Barmore Development and Construction, Inc. The Greenwells, homeowners in the Seaton Place neighborhood, participated in the annual yard sale by offering items for sale to the public in front of their home. After Brooks had finished shopping at the Greenwells' yard sale, she stepped onto the sidewalk in front of their home to walk to the next-door neighbors' yard sale. Brooks testified that as she traversed the sidewalk, her foot "got caught" and she fell. Brooks attributed her fall to an unevenness in the sidewalk. She filed the personal injury action underlying this appeal on May 8, 2014.

         Following a period of discovery, the HOA and the association's board members (who had been sued in their individual capacity) filed a motion for summary judgment. In support of the motion, the defendants argued that while they were responsible to maintain those areas dedicated to the neighborhood as open spaces and common areas, they were not responsible to maintain the public sidewalk outside the Greenwells' home. Upon this basis, they argued that they did not owe a duty of care to Brooks.

         The Greenwells filed a separate motion for summary judgment. They argued that there was no direct evidence to support Brooks's assertion that she had stumbled over a defect in the sidewalk outside their home. Thus, they argued that she could not establish the necessary causal relationship between an alleged breach of duty and the injury she suffered.

         The circuit court's summary judgment in favor of the defendants was entered on July 21, 2016. The court concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that the HOA or board members owned, possessed, or had any control whatsoever over the public sidewalk where Brooks fell. With respect to the claims asserted against the Greenwells, the court observed that the primary responsibility to keep public sidewalks in reasonably safe condition for public travel resides with the municipal government. The court determined that there had been no proof that the Greenwells had -- by some affirmative act of negligence -- created a dangerous condition on the sidewalk. Consequently, the court concluded that the various defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. This appeal followed.

         Before we address the issues raised on appeal, we must resolve a preliminary procedural issue. The HOA and its board members have moved to strike a portion of Brooks's brief. They assert that while Brooks identified six issues to be raised on appeal in her prehearing statement, she failed to identify any errors related to the trial court's ruling dismissing her claims against the association's individual board members. They contend that Brooks is now precluded by provisions of our civil rules from presenting any alleged errors concerning those board members.

         The HOA and its board members are correct that the provisions of CR[1]76.03 effectively limit the issues on appeal to those designated in the prehearing statement except upon a timely motion where good cause is shown. Nevertheless, having carefully reviewed the prehearing statement, we conclude that issues concerning the HOA board members were sufficiently delineated. Consequently, by separate order, we deny the motion to strike a portion of Brooks's brief, and we shall consider it in its entirety.

         Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, stipulations and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." CR 56.03. In order to prevail in a negligence action, a plaintiff "must prove the existence of a duty, breach thereof, causation, and damages." Boland-Maloney Lumber Co., Inc., v. Burnett, 302 S.W.3d 680, ...


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