Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

East Cleveland Must Pay Accident Victims $12 Million

The city of East Cleveland must pay more than $12 million for a judgment and interest that a jury awarded in 2017 to two citizens struck by a police cruiser involved in a chase, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled today.

The Supreme Court unanimously granted a writ of mandamus to Charles Hunt and the estate of Marilyn Conard requiring East Cleveland to pay them the judgment along with pre- and post-judgment interest. Hunt and Conard were seriously injured in 2008 when East Cleveland police officer Todd Carroscia collided with a vehicle Hunt was driving.

In a per curiam opinion, the Court wrote that under R.C. 2744.06, the city is mandated to pay the judgment. The opinion noted the law gives the city the option of setting up a payment plan to meet its obligation. East Cleveland had argued it is not obligated to pay the judgment because Carroscia should be fully responsible for the payment.

“The city’s arguments in this case are an impermissible attempt to relitigate the unsuccessful defenses it raised at trial and the arguments it lost on appeal,” the opinion stated.

Extended Legal Dispute Follows Accident
Trial records indicate that Carroscia responded to another officer’s call at around 2 a.m. on October 5, 2008, regarding a possible stolen motorcycle. Carroscia joined the search and was proceeding toward the intersection of East 140th Street and St. Clair Avenue. Hunt was driving on 140th and Conard was a passenger in his car when Carroscia struck Hunt’s car. An accident reconstruction expert estimated the police officer was driving around 70 mph on St. Clair Avenue at the time, and the street’s speed limit was 25 mph.

Hunt and Conard filed a lawsuit against East Cleveland, Carroscia, and others in 2009. In 2017, when the case went to trial, only the city and Carroscia remained as defendants. The jury found both the officer and the city negligent and awarded $6.1 million in damages to Hunt and about $1.6 million to Conard. The jury also found Carroscia individually liable for $1 million in punitive damages. The trial court then awarded prejudgment interest of nearly $2 million to Hunt and $500,000 to Conard.

East Cleveland appealed the verdict to the Eighth District Court of Appeals, which in 2019 affirmed the trial court’s decision. The city then made unsuccessful attempts to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Ohio and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hunt and Conard attempted to collect the judgment from the city but received no responses. Hunt and the administrator of Marilyn Conard’s estate sought a writ of mandamus from the state Supreme Court to compel the city to pay. Conard died while the case was on appeal.

Supreme Court Analyzed City’s Requirement to Pay Judgment
The opinion noted that at the time the victims presented their case to the Supreme Court, the city owed more than $12 million on the judgment, with interest. The city argued that under R.C. 2744.06, it was immune from liability and did not have to pay. The city argued that the trial court found that the officer engaged in “wanton or reckless misconduct” and that the victims could pursue Carroscia for the judgment, but not the city.

Citing its 1994 State ex rel. Shimola v. Cleveland decision, the Court said the city must pay a judgment for any damages “for injury, death, or loss to person or property caused by the act or omission of the political subdivision or any of its employees in connection with a government or propriety function.” The opinion noted the city was legally responsible for the officer’s behavior under R.C. 2744.02(B)(1)(a), and also observed that the jury had ruled that both the officer and the city were negligent.

The Court ruled the city must pay the victims all amounts it owes, including interest, from the date of the April 2017 judgment to the date the judgment is fully paid.

2021-1592. State ex rel. Hunt v. E. Cleveland, Slip Opinion No. 2023-Ohio-407.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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