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There is an old expression, “You can’t fight city hall!” This is actually not true, at least with respect to personal injury claims. A city or municipality can be held liable for the negligent acts of its employees. For example, if you are involved in a car accident with a city-owned vehicle, you can sue for damages if there is evidence a city employee’s negligence caused the collision.
Jury Entitled to Believe Testimony of Victims, Witnesses, Instead of Police Officers
Of course, the city will not go down without a (legal) fight. Consider this recent decision from the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals here in Cleveland. The court rejected an appeal from the City of East Cleveland of a jury verdict holding it responsible for a 2008 auto accident. The jury ordered the city to pay several million dollars to the victims.
Here is a brief explanation of what happened. The accident occurred early in the morning hours of October 5, 2008. Two East Cleveland police officers were separately patrolling the same bar in their official vehicles. The officers suddenly received a call from a third officer, who was “following a possibly stolen motorcycle,” according to court records.
In the course of responding to the third officer’s call for assistance, one of the officers struck a fourth vehicle, seriously injuring both its driver and passenger. The driver and passenger subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the City of East Cleveland.
Following a trial, a Cuyahoga County jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The jury ordered the City to pay approximately $6.1 million in compensatory damages to the injured driver, and over $1.5 million to the injured passenger. The jury also awarded each plaintiff $500,000 in punitive damages, which was assessed against the officer who caused the accident.
The defense appealed the jury’s verdict on multiple grounds. The appeals court overruled all of the City’s objections and upheld the verdict. One of the City’s claims was that the verdict was “against the manifest weight of the evidence,” because the plaintiff driver testified he did not look both ways before proceeding into the intersection where the collision with the police officer occurred. The driver looked to his right but not his left.
But as the appeals court explained, the plaintiff had a green light at the intersection in question at the time. Furthermore, despite responding to the third officer’s call, the plaintiff and other witnesses said they never saw any police vehicles with their emergency lights or sirens activated. There was therefore “no reason” for the plaintiff to have looked to his left before proceeding on a green light. And while the two police officers testified they had the green light and did activate their lights and sirens, the appeals court said “it was for the jury to decide whom and what to believe.”
Contact the Cleveland Personal Injury Lawyers at Tittle & Perlmuter Today
The verdict in this case illustrates that even when the defendants are police officers, juries are still able to rationally and impartially review the evidence and come to a decision that compensates accident victims for their injuries.
If you have been injured in an auto accident and need assistance in pursuing a claim against the responsible parties, call the Cleveland personal injury lawyers at Tittle & Perlmuter at (216) 308-1522 today.