A Cleveland man who fell down the stairs after tripping over a pair of his then-fiancée’s shoes cannot sue her despite trying, a judge ruled on Thursday.
John Walworth fell down the stairs of his now-wife Judy Khoury’s basement in February 2018 and suffered several broken bones as well as $80,000 in medical bills, according to court filings. Walworth claimed he didn’t see the shoes because he was carrying a large box into Khoury’s home at her request.
The three-judge panel ruled that the shoes were “open and obvious” and that they would have been seen by any person taking reasonable precautions.
According to records, Khoury and Walworth have known each other for decades, began dating in 2015 and became engaged in 2017. They were married in May 2019 and remain married.
Walworth was carrying a box of four one-gallon vinegar jugs from Khoury’s car to her basement after she asked him to, according to The Plain Dealer.
Entering through the back door, Walworth stepped with his left foot onto a pair of black and grey shoes that were left by Khoury on the landing at the top of the basement, he said. Walworth lost his balance and caught the lip of the stair tread with his right foot and ultimately tumbled down the stairs.
The fall caused the man to break bones in his left, arm and hand. Due to repair the injuries, he underwent three surgeries and attended several months of physical therapy, according to court records.
Walworth filed the lawsuit more than five months after he married Khoury in October 2019.
His attorney, Henry Chamberlain, argued in court filings that Khoury failed in her duty as a host to protect a “social guest” from dangerous conditions that she created. He described the fall as “tragic and violent.”
According to The Plain Dealer, Khoury testified that she often leaves her shoes by the back door and didn’t think to warn Walworth about them. She said that because she didn’t see him fall, she couldn’t say for sure he tripped over her shoes.
Chamberlain asked Khoury if she thought Walworth’s fall was her fault and she said she did.
Attorneys provided by Khoury’s home insurance company said that the shoes were in the open and shouldn’t be considered a danger because any reasonable person could have avoided them.
The attorneys, C. Joseph McCullough and Katherine Clemons, argued that just because Khoury felt responsible didn’t mean she was obligated to take legal responsibility for Walworth’s injuries.
They added that in Walworth’s own deposition, he said the shoes were not concealed or hidden and affirmed they were sitting in the open.
“Had Mr. Walworth used ordinary care and simply looked where he was going, especially given he was about to go down a set of stairs, he would have easily seen the shoes on the floor,” Khoury’s attorneys said.
The ruling of the 8th District Court of Appeals made up of judges Lisa Forbes, Mary Kilbane and Eileen A. Gallagher upheld Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Dick Ambrose’s ruling granting Khoury summary judgment, according to The Plain Dealer.
In writing for the panel, Forbes said that Walworth failed to show how outside factors prevented him from noticing the shoes.
Newsweek reached out to Walworth’s attorney but didn’t hear back by press time.