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Vol. 2000-3 | March, 2000

Chattel or Fixture?

Query: When does a chattel become a fixture to real estate?

Answer: A combination of certain legal tests, based upon or growing out of the relationship between the chattel and the real estate have been defined by the courts to determine whether and when a chattel becomes a fixture. In Household Finance Corp. v. BancOhio (1989), 62 Ohio App.3d 691, 694, the Court of Appeals reiterated the Ohio Supreme Court’s three-part test for determination of the three elements by which a chattel is considered a fixture:

“First, to become a fixture it is essential that the chattel in question be annexed (fastened, connected, or fixed) to some extent to the realty. Second, the chattel must have an appropriate application (necessity, or adaptation) to the use or purpose to which the realty to which it is attached, is devoted. Third, there must be an actual or apparent intention upon the part of the owner of the chattel in affixing it to the realty to make such chattel a permanent part of such realty.” See: Teaff v. Hewitt (1853), 1 Ohio St. 511 and Holland Furnace Co. v. Trumbell S. & L. Co. (1939), 135 Ohio St. 48.



“The plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of discrimination by showing the following: (1) he belongs to a protected class, (2) he was qualified for the position that he held, (3) he was terminated despite his qualifications, and (4) he was replaced by someone outside the protected class. McDonell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 801-803 *** If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, then the burden shifts to the employer to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the employee’s rejection. After the employer has done so, the plaintiff must be afforded an opportunity to show that the employer’s proffered reason is a pretext for discrimination. McDonnell Douglas, supra, 411 U.S. at 801-805.” Smith v. Goodwill Industries of the Miami Valley, Inc., (1998), 130 Ohio App.3d 437, 441-442.

IMPORTANT NEW CASE LAW: Independent contractors, from accountants and attorneys, to tradespersons, contractors and subcontractors may now sue their clients and/or customers for creating a hostile work environment. On January 10, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a May, 1999 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Danco, Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which had previously barred discrimination in private contracts.

In declining to review the appellate decision, the U.S. Supreme Court let the Wal-Mart decision stand and become the controlling case law in these matters, under Title VII. While no other circuit has ruled similarly, the Court’s ruling could encourage similar litigation in other federal circuit courts.

Essentially, this ruling could expose companies to hostile work environment suits by individuals who believe they have been mistreated or terminated because of race or gender-based hostility in the work environment.
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Author: J. NORMAN STARK is an Attorney-at-Law, a Registered Architect, (AIA, NCARB) Registered Landscape Architect, Interior Designer, Planner and Senior Appraiser (ASA), admitted to practice law before the Bar of Ohio, the US District Courts, Ohio and Illinois (Central Dist.), the US Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. He has had experience in business, Construction, Real Property, Litigation and Construction-Legal Project and Crisis Management.