Williams v. First United Church of Christ

Decision Date20 March 1974
Docket NumberNo. 73-467,73-467
Citation37 Ohio St.2d 150,309 N.E.2d 924,66 O.O.2d 311
Parties, 66 O.O.2d 311 WILLIAMS et al., Appellees, v. FIRST UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, Appellant.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

On November 9, 1966, the First United Church of Christ held its annual bazaar and supper. At that event, Mrs. Dorothy Williams, a member of the Church, was struck on the neck and shoulders by a coat rack which fell from a stage adjacent to where she was seated.

Mrs. Williams subsequently filed a suit against the Church, seeking damages for the injuries she allegedly sustained due to the negligence of the Church in failing to maintain the coat rack in a safe manner. *

Stephen Williams, her husband, filed an action in which he sought damages for loss of consortium. The two actions were consolidated upon motion of defendants.

The Church then filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming immunity from suit because it was a charitable and religious institution. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Church.

Plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals, which reversed. The Court of Appeals based its decision upon the narrow ground that 'there exists a genuine issue of material fact which would obviate rendition of summary judgment * * *.' The court also expressed the opinion that the rule of limited liability of charitable hospitals for the torts of employees should be applied to all charitable institutions.

The cause is now before this court pursuant to the allowance of a motion to certify the record.

Cohen, Todd, Kite & Spiegel and Marshall C. Hunt, Jr., Cincinnati, for appellees.

McIntosh, McIntosh & Knabe and Bruce B. McIntosh, Cincinnati, for appellant.

PER CURIAM.

Civ.R. 56(C), in pertinent part, provides:

'* * * Summary judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleading, depositions * * * affidavits * * * timely filed in the action, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. * * * A summary judgment shall not be rendered until it appears from such evidence or stipulation and only therefrom, that reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion and that conclusion is adverse to the party against whom the motion for summary judgment is made, such party being entitled to have the evidence or stipulation construed most strongly in his favor. * * *'

Civ.R. 56(C) is based upon Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Thus, we have the advantage of interpretations by federal courts, as well as our own.

In the following cases, the United States Supreme Court emphasized the way in which a reviewing court should evaluate the record upon an appeal from a summary judgment:

'* * * We look at the record on summary judgment in the light most favorable to * * * the party opposing the motion * * *.' Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System (1962), 368 U.S. 464, 473, 82 S.Ct. 486, 491, 7 L.Ed.2d 458. Further, '* * * on summary judgment the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts contained in such materials (depositions, affidavits and exhibits) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.' United States v. Diebold (1962), 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct. 993, 994, 8 L.Ed.2d 176.

The record in this case contains the motion for summary judgment, parts of a deposition of Mrs. Williams taken by the attorney for the Church, a memorandum supporting the Church's motion for summary judgment and the respective pleadings.

It could be gleaned from the record that the Church was operating...

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