Wednesday, December 8, 2021
OH: Duty Case on Mailbox Construction
In Snay v. Burr, 2021-Ohio-4113 (2021), the Supreme Court of Ohio wrestles with a property owner's duty to construct a mailbox within the right-of-way that is safe for drivers on the road. Defendant put up a mailbox on an eight-inch-diameter pipe that was buried 36 inches deep, both contrary to guidelines published by the Postal Service. Plaintiff lost control of his car and crashed into the mailbox, which did not collapse. Plaintiff became a quadriplegic, and sued defendant over the mailbox. The court held defendant had no duty to the plaintiff:
The Burrs’ mailbox did not affect the safety of ordinary travel on the regularly traveled portion of Young Road. And Burr's knowledge that the mailbox's construction was inconsistent with nonbinding postal-service guidelines does not warrant a departure from the general rule that the duty to motorists owed by an adjacent landowner or an occupier of land adjacent to the road extends only to conditions in the right-of-way that render ordinary travel on the regularly traveled portion of the road unsafe. This is true even though there existed the possibility that a vehicle might negligently veer off the regularly traveled portion of the road and hit the mailbox.
Because the Burrs’ mailbox did not present a hazard to ordinary travel on the regularly traveled portion of the road and because Snay's deviation from the regularly traveled portion of the road did not constitute a normal incident of ordinary travel, we conclude that the Burrs did not owe a duty of care to Snay with respect to their mailbox. And because there can be no liability in negligence without a duty of care, we affirm the judgment of the Sixth District Court of Appeals.