LOGAN – The estate of a Laurelville man who died after falling down a set of stairs at a Circleville bar is suing the business for alleged negligence and failure to take safety precautions.
Terry E. Holzschuh, 60, died on May 4, 2019, as a result of “massive blunt force trauma to the head and neck,” according to the legal complaint filed in Hocking County Common Pleas Court April 28. His death, the lawsuit says, occurred after he “tripped and fell through no fault of his own,” down a flight of stairs leading to the basement of Shifty’s Tavern in Circleville.
The lawsuit alleges that these stairs, which provided the only access for patrons to the men’s restroom, were “unstable, slanted, poorly constructed wooden stairs that lacked proper handrails on both sides and other critical safety precautions.” It adds that they were “poorly illuminated as well as uniform in color, thereby rendering their hazardous condition difficult if not impossible to detect.”
The suit alleges that the bar owners should have known that patrons using the stairs “were likely to be intoxicated, potentially unfamiliar with the premises, focused upon finding the restroom, distracted by the surrounding bar activity, and otherwise unable to maintain a careful lookout for potential hazards and dangers,” conditions likely to put “even the most prudent and careful” of them at “serious risk of injury or death” while using the stairs. Despite this, no warnings were provided, the suit claims.
Holzschuh fell down the stairs around 10 p.m., the complaint says, and died about two hours later from his injuries, after suffering “extreme conscious pain, mental anguish, shock and fright, trauma and extreme psychological agony prior to his death.”
The suit claims that regarding the conditions of the stairway the bar failed to comply with applicable safety laws and regulations including the Ohio Basic Building Code, the National Bureau of Standards Guidelines for Stair Safety, the International Code Council Property Management Guide, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America Standards, and ASTM Standards. It asks for compensatory and punitive damages of more than $25,000 each, plus reasonable attorney fees, expenses and interest.
Defendants Frobida, LLC, Scott A. Siembida and Chtistina L. Frosini, the owners and operators of the bar, filed an answer to the complaint on June 28. In it, they deny that they were negligent or breached any duty to Holzschuh. Among other affirmative defenses, they allege that Holzschuh’s accident was “a proximate consequence and the result of (his) actions or omissions,” and that he “assumed the risk of injury under the circumstances and conditions then existing, requiring the application of comparative negligence principles.”
They further claim that any damages “were caused in whole or in part by a third party or parties” over whom they had no control; that Holzchuh “had a duty to look”; and that the hazardous stairway “was open, obvious and apparent to (him) or anyone in the exercise of due care for their own safety and did not amount to a hidden danger such as to impose liability” on them.