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Linda Kobak, et al. v. Tom Sobhani, et al.
Full Opinion

The facts of the case are as follows. Both Kobak and Sobhani were, at all times relevant to this case, employed by Parma Community General Hospital. Both employees parked in the parking garage controlled by the Hospital for which employees were issued access cards by the Hospital. The parking garage was not open to the public and was provided by the Hospital for the exclusive use of its employees. The Hospital assigns its employees to parking facilities and requires its employees to park in the assigned facility or face possible sanctions. 

On December 6, 2007, Ms. Kobak arrived at the Hospital parking garage to begin her work shift. While walking to the building, she was struck and injured by the motor vehicle operated by Mr. Sobhani, who was exiting the garage after completing his shift at the Hospital. Ms. Kobak received workers’ compensation benefits for some of her injuries, although the extent of those benefits was disputed.  The plaintiffs filed suit at common law for damages not included within the workers compensation claim. 

The definition of ‘employee’ set forth in R.C. 4123.01(A)(1)(a), as ‘[e]very person in the service of’ a qualifying employer, is equally applicable to both employees who form the subject of R.C. 4123.741. Thus, nothing more is required of the employee seeking immunity to be ‘in the service of’ the employer than is required of the injured employee in obtaining compensation coverage.

There was no allegation that Mr. Sobhani was engaged in horseplay incident to the accident at issue. Both of them were employees as defined by statutory and case law. Accordingly, Mr. Sobhani is immune from civil liability on the claim raised by Ms. Kobak.

The trial court found that Kobak’s personal injury suit against Sobhani was barred by the co-employee immunity statute, R.C. 4123.741. The Appellate court stated that a determination under this statute begins with two questions that must be considered in applying this statute: was the injury caused by another employee, and did the injury occur in the course of and arising out of the plaintiff’s employment? Sammetinger v. Kirk Bros. Co., Inc., Logan App. No. 8-09-15. 2010-Ohio-1500.

The Eighth District agreed with the trial court that the defendant was immune from civil suit.  The Appellate Court reasoned that [a]lthough he had “clocked out,” the undisputed evidence demonstrated that the accident occurred in the hospital’s parking garage as Sobhani was exiting for the day. Kobak’s deposition testimony clearly established that the lot is not open to the public, is operated exclusively for employees, certain departments are assigned to certain locations, and parking is free to employees. Moreover, the accident occurred within the garage, before Sobhani reached the street or public area.The Nationwide policy at issue is limited to damages the Plaintiffs are legally entitled to recover. Because Plaintiffs are not legally entitled to recover from Mr. Sobhani, they cannot recover against Nationwide under the current law in Ohio.Linda Kobak, et al. v. Tom Sobhani, et al.Eight District Court of Appeals Case No. 94764Cite as Kobak v. Sobhani, 2011-Ohio-13

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