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Ohio Court of Appeals Holds that Car Accident Lawsuit Involving Teens Who Intentionally Jumped Railroad Tracks Was Properly Dismissed on Summary Judgment

August 16, 2018

When we think of Ohio car accidents, we usually think of a crash between two cars, cars and a truck, or even a motorcyle and a car. But sometimes, it's the roadway itself or the signs which are at fault When the negligence of an Ohio city, county or even the State of Ohio causes a crash, those whose lives are affected by it may have a right to seek compensation by filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Unless, of course, the driver was more at fault than the roadway design or maintenance. This is called comparative  negligence in Ohio.Of course, the defendant(s) in such cases often fight hard against being held responsible, sometimes asking the trial court to order "summary judgment," a legal tool that claims that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgement as a matter of law. If granted by the judge, this effectively ends the lawsuit before the plaintiff has an opportunity to present his or her side of the case to the jury. It is up to the trial court to determine whether the plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate case arising from an automobile accident in Lorain County, Ohio, the plaintiffs were the parents of three teenagers who died when their car went airborne after it crossed over a railroad track. The parents sued the defendant townships, which bordered the road on which the teens were driving prior to their death.

Another teen, the sole survivor of the crash, stated that the group had traveled on the particular road because they intended to jump the track and that they had successfully jumped the track once without incident before the driver lost control on the second attempt, after which the fatal accident took place. The townships moved for summary judgment. The Court of Common Pleas denied the townships' motion, letting the case go to trial. They appealed.

Decision of the Appellate Court

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Judicial District reversed the lower court's ruling. Although the plaintiffs argued that the townships' alleged failure to remove obstructions for the road, keep the road in repair, and place mandatory road markings would have prevented the tragic accident that claimed the lives of the teens, the appellate court disagreed.

The appellate court found that there was nothing to suggest that the collision would have been avoided if the townships had done what the plaintiffs said that they should have. While one expert did testify that the teens "might have been" deterred from jumping the tracks if a stop sign had been placed immediately before the crossing, this was not required by the manual of uniform traffic control devices, and the fact that there was no stop sign present did not make the road "out of repair."

The court also agreed with the defendants that, as political subdivisions, they were immune from suit  as a matter of law because the exception contained in  Ohio Code § 2744.02(B)(3) did not apply in this case.

Speak to an Experienced Ohio Accident Lawyer

If you or a member of your family has been hurt in a car accident, you need to understand your legal rights. It is also important to understand the procedural requirements for filing a lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries or wrongful death. At Rubin Guttman & Associates, L.P.A., our knowledgeable Cleveland car accident attorneys will be glad to talk to you about your case at no charge. For a complimentary case evaluation, call us now at 216-696-4006.

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