Ohio Court Affirms Summary Judgment to County Board of Commissioners, Based on Sovereign Immunity in Crash Case

Seeking fair compensation for injuries suffered in an Ohio motorcycle accident can be both complicated and time-consuming.  Motorcycle and vehicle accident lawsuits usually proceed on a a  negligence theory in which a plaintiff must prove that a defendant ( the responsible party) owed a duty to the plaintiff ( the injured party bringing the lawsuit), that the defendant breached that duty and that as a direct or proximate result of that negligence,  the plaintiff suffered injuries and damages. The plaintiff must show  that there was a link between the plaintiff’s damages and the defendant’s breach of duty in order topursue monetary payment for his or her losses in the accident.

In some cases, the defendant may have an affirmative defense that defeats the plaintiff’s claim, and some defendants – such as governmental entities – may be immune from suit because they are a government entity . This is known as sovereign immunity.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently reviewed by the Ohio Court of Appeals for the Seventh District, the plaintiff was the surviving spouse and personal representative of the estate of a man who died as a result of a motorcycle accident in which he was struck by a motorist attempting to make a left turn from a side street onto the road where the decedent was traveling. The decedent had the right of way; the motorist who struck him claimed that he looked – but did not see the decedent – before making the turn.

The plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against the defendant County Board of Commissioners  claiming that the placement of certain road signs in the vicinity of the crash  obstructed the motorist’s view of the decedent. The Court of Common Pleas of Mahoning County, Ohio, granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Ruling

The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling, finding that the plaintiff had failed to establish any exception to the general governmental immunity that applied to the defendant under Ohio law. The court also found that the plaintiff had failed to prove one of the required elements of a negligence lawsuit, namely, proximate causation.

Ohio R.C. Ch. 2744 provides certain limitations on political subdivisions’ liability for injuries and deaths on public grounds. Whether or not immunity from suit is available is a question of law that must be determined by the courts prior to trial. Since the appellate court found that the signs in question were not mandatory under the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the manner and mode of their placement was discretionary, and the Board of Commissioners had not run afoul of its duty to keep the public roadways open and in good repair. The court went on to note that, even if the signs were mandatory, the plaintiff had failed to establish the placement of the signs was a cause the accident.

Contact an Ohio Injury Attorney

If you or someone in your family has been hurt in a car, truck, or motorcycle crash, the experienced Cleveland motor vehicle accident attorneys at Rubin Guttman & Associates, L.P.A., can help. For a free consultation, call us at 216-696-4006. We can help you investigate your accident, document your injuries and damages, and litigate your accident claim to seek the highest possible amount of compensation for what you have been through.

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