Ohio Court of Appeals Affirms Denial of Summary Judgment on Injured Woman’s “Wanton or Willful” Claim Against EMS Driver, Service, and County Commissioners

Not all traffic accidents are caused by obvious wrongdoers, such as drunk drivers or texting teenagers. Sometimes, an Ohio car accident is caused by someone who would otherwise be the “good guy” – like the ambulance driver who allegedly caused the serious crash that gave rise to litigation described in more detail below.

When the allegedly at-fault person is a government employee, special rules may apply. Under the doctrine known as sovereign immunity, the government may only be sued when it has expressly consented to be sued, so it is important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible if you have been hurt in  an accident caused by a government vehicle. This is even more the case when the at fault vehicle is a safety vehicle like an ambulance or police car. In that case, even more restrictive rules may apply.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who suffered a torn rotator cuff and multiple bulging discs due to a 2013 multi-vehicle accident that began when an ambulance allegedly crossed the center line and hit an oncoming sedan, which in turn spun around and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle (which was traveling behind the sedan). The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendants, the ambulance driver, the county emergency medical services (EMS) department that employed him, and the County Commissioners, seeking compensation for her injuries.

In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the driver acted negligently or willfully and wantonly in his operation of the ambulance and that the EMS department and commissioners were liable for her injuries. The defendants moved for summary judgment, but the Meigs County Court of Common Pleas denied their motion. They appealed.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals of Ohio for the Fourth Appellate District affirmed the lower court’s ruling in part and reversed the ruling in part. According to the appeals court, the trial court correctly decided that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether the ambulance driver acted in a wanton and willful manner under Ohio Rev. Code § 2744.02(B)(1)(c) or  under Ohio Rev. Code § 2744.03(A)(6)(b).

In so holding, the Court of Appeals noted that the driver was exceeding the speed limit by at least 20 mph and did not have the lights or sirens activated to provide a warning to motorists. Although the driver denied that he had passed or was attempting to pass another vehicle when the accident occurred, both the plaintiff and the driver of the sedan that was first struck by the ambulance claimed that he was. Notably, the driver’s own deposition testimony provided “little detail of how he ended up in the opposite lane of travel.” Based on this evidence, the court found that reasonable minds could conclude that the driver’s conduct was wanton or willful.

The appeals court disagreed with the trial court on the remaining issues, determining that no genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether the ambulance driver acted with malicious purpose, bad faith, or recklessness.

Contact an Experienced Ohio Personal Injury Attorney

As this case illustrates, there are many different ways in which a car crash can occur, including situations in which the person who is alleged to be at fault is someone who is actually charged with protecting public health or safety. If you’ve been hurt in a serious Ohio car accident and need legal counsel, we are here for you. Call Rubin Guttman & Associates, L.P.A., today at 216-696-4006.

Related Blog Posts:

Sudden Medical Emergencies and Car Accidents

Ohio Court Rules that Summary Judgment Was Improper in UM/UIM Coverage Case When Issues Remained as to Whether Injured Mother Was a Member of Son’s Household for Purposes of Coverage Under the Son’s Automobile Insurance Policy

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