BELLEVUE, Ohio — Justices with the Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday over a mailbox post dispute between a homeowner and a crash victim.
In December 2016, Cletus Snay crashed his pickup truck into Matthew Burr’s mailbox in Bellevue after hitting a patch of black ice.
“He slides on black ice and collides with the mailbox post, which, contrary with postal service guidelines, doesn’t break away,” attorney Kathleen St. John explained. “Initiating the rollover sequence which results in Mr. Snay's quadriplegia.”
What makes this case out of the ordinary is that Burr had installed a mailbox post made out of an eight-inch metal pole, buried three feet in the ground with rocks and dry cement poured on top.
“The hazardous object in this case is a severely reinforced mailbox post,” St. John added, arguing that previous cases point to the fortified mailbox post as a dangerous object. “An owner of property is not justified in inflicting, without warning, bodily harm upon the person of a trespasser or petty pilferer by means of traps, spring guns or instrumentalities of destruction unless he would have been justified in using that force if he had been personally present.”
The issue at hand for the court to decide is whether or not the homeowner is liable for the crash given that the driver alleges his pickup truck would not have flipped over had it not been for the fortified mailbox post.
As to why the mailbox post was first put in place, court paperwork details the damage done to this mailbox over the years, including trailers and snow plows clipping it, a pumpkin thrown at it, and vandals knocking it over several times.
“Are you telling me a homeowner cannot reinforce their mailbox if they are the victim of repeated vandalism?” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor asked.
“Yes I am, that’s what I'm saying,” attorney St. John responded.
Guidelines from the Federal Highway Administration, that posted are on the US Postal Service website, highlight how Burr’s mailbox post was too deep in the ground and made of the wrong material, but was not illegal.
“Guidelines do not set forth duty of care, they are just guidelines,” said attorney Doug Leak, who is representing Burr. “The public has an absolute right to travel on the roadways in a usual and ordinary manner. The moment a motorist veers off that course, that same protection does not extend off the roadway.”
A ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court is expected in the near future.