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City Immune from Liability for Accident Caused by Construction and Design of Median, Says Ohio Court of Appeals

August 17, 2018

Because of negligent motorists and truck drivers,  riding a motorcycle is dangerous enough. But sometimes riding a bike in Ohio  is  made even more dangerous by hazards created by construction and maintenance crews, or even the by the municipality itself. While those who negligently hurt others  are generally accountable for the harm they cause, when the damage is caused by a city or its officials,  this is not always so. In a recent Dayton area motorcycle accident case recently considered by Ohio's Second District appellate court, the defendant city was able to escape paying for the damage it caused.

The defendants were a city and its service director. Because of their status as a governmental entity and governmental employee, the court ultimately ruled that they were protected from the plaintiff's negligence lawsuit by so-called sovereign immunity.

Facts of the Case

In the case, the plaintiff was a motorcyclist who was injured when a vehicle going in the opposite direction lost control and hit a median that had been constructed by the defendant city and overseen by the defendant service director as part of an "entryway enhancement project." Debris from the accident struck the plaintiff,  throwing him to the pavement, causing  serious injury. Significantly, while the accident occurred in 2014,  the construction project was begun in 2009; another motorist struck the median in 2010, also sending debris into the oncoming lane. So the City was aware of the hazard and the problem.

The plaintiff filed suit against the  the city and its service director, claiming that they were  negligent and political subdivision employee tort liability. The court of common pleas entered summary judgment for the defendants, and the plaintiff appealed.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals for the Second District of Ohio affirmed the trial court's judgment dismissing the case. Under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2744, Ohio political subdivisions are generally not liable in damages for the harm they cause; however, there are some exceptions to this general rule. Although the plaintiff argued that the city was responsible for maintaining the roads in safe condition and that  Chapter 2744.02(B)(2)  subjects a political subdivision to liability for injury “caused by the negligent performance of acts by their employees with respect to proprietary functions of the political subdivision,”  the court of appeals disagreed.

In affirming summary judgment in the defendants' favor, the court of appeals rejected the plaintiff's contention that the defendants were engaged in proprietary functions when they built the median that allegedly caused the plaintiff's injuries, thereby agreeing with the defendants that the functions in question were governmental in nature and rendered them immune from liability.

Speak to an Ohio Injury Attorney

If you have been hurt in an accident caused by another's negligence, you need to talk to a lawyer about your case. At Rubin Guttman & Associates, L.P.A., we handle many types of Cleveland personal injury and wrongful death cases. We offer a free, complimentary case evaluation, and most cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis so legal fees do not have to be paid in advance to get your case started. Call us at 216-696-4006 to schedule an appointment.

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