Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court to Consider Timeframes for Filing Lawsuits in Child Sex Abuse Cases

Among Eight Cases Before the Supreme Court April 29 and 30

Image of an attorney presenting oral arguments to the Chief Justice and Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court

The reversal of Youngstown man’s death sentence and two attorney discipline cases are on the court’s agenda for late April oral arguments.

Image of an attorney presenting oral arguments to the Chief Justice and Justices of the Ohio Supreme Court

The reversal of Youngstown man’s death sentence and two attorney discipline cases are on the court’s agenda for late April oral arguments.

A Franklin County woman has filed a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse when she was a juvenile by two state employees. Which deadline for filing a claim applies – the one in the statute governing actions against state agencies, or the one in the law that addresses child sex abuse cases?

That question will be considered by the Supreme Court of Ohio on Wednesday during next week’s oral arguments.

As a teenager, the woman, identified as U.W., was held at a Delaware, Ohio, juvenile correction facility. She alleges that she was sexually abused by two employees at the facility while in custody between 2000 and 2001.

The Ohio Court of Claims ruled that the clock for U.W. to file suit started ticking in August 2004 when she turned 18 years old. State law provides that claims against the state or its agencies must be filed within two years. The child sexual abuse statute, however, sets a deadline (statute of limitations) of 12 years.

U.W. argues that the General Assembly intended the 12-year statute of limitations to apply to all civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse, even cases brought against the state. The contradiction between the two statutes also violates her right to equal protection under the law, she contends.

The Department of Youth Services maintains that the law controlling actions against the state currently contains no exception for cases of child sexual abuse, so the two-year limit must apply in this case. As a result, the department concludes that U.W.’s window for filing suit has expired.

The court will hear four cases on Tuesday, April 29 and four more, including U.W. v. Department of Youth Services, on Wednesday, April 30. The court’s sessions begin at 9 a.m. each day at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center in Columbus. The arguments will be streamed live online at sc.ohio.gov and broadcast live on The Ohio Channel.

Along with the brief descriptions below, the Office of Public Information today released summaries of the eight cases.

Cases for Tuesday, April 29
The court will consider these four cases during Tuesday’s session:

  • In State v. Herring, the appellate court overturned the death sentence of a Youngstown man who was part of a group that robbed a bar and shot five people. Three of them were killed. The state argues that the man’s trial attorneys provided effective assistance of counsel, even though they did not describe the difficulties of his childhood to the jury. The state maintains that keeping negative information from the jury is a reasonable strategy and, even if the jury had heard about these circumstances, the verdict would not have been different.
  • Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance v. Donaker, Coshocton County Treasurer asks the court to determine whether mortgage holders have the right to take back land subject to a tax foreclosure. The county treasurer filed foreclosure actions for unpaid property taxes on real estate, including a parcel owned by the treasurer’s stepdaughter. After the property was sold, the mortgage company intervened to redeem the property. The company contends that because it owns the mortgage on the land, it has the legal right in a tax foreclosure to redeem it before a court confirms a sale.
  • Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. Renfrow involves a longtime smoker who worked for more than 20 years on a railroad, was exposed to asbestos at his job, and later died of lung cancer. The estate of the man, who was a veteran, is making a claim under the Ohio Asbestos Act, but has had difficulty meeting some of the law’s requirements because he was treated at facilities run by the Veterans Administration. The railroad contends that the estate must provide an opinion from a treating physician, and the man’s records do not show that asbestos contributed substantially to his lung cancer.
  • The attorney disciplinary board has recommended that the court disbar a Columbus attorney in Disciplinary Counsel v. Cicero. The attorney altered his own speeding citation without permission from the prosecutor’s office, and then covered it up. The attorney asserts that his behavior has not directly impacted any of his clients, and he asks the court for a lesser sanction of indefinite suspension, which gives him the right after two years to ask to be reinstated.

Cases for Wednesday, April 30
In addition to U.W., the court will consider these three cases during Wednesday’s session:

  • The Ohio Board of Tax Appeals denied a Harrison County property owner the right to challenge a land valuation because there was no evidence that a formal complaint had been filed in L.J. Smith, Inc. v. Harrison County Board of Revision. The property owner asserts that a complaint was mailed, and the filing error was committed by the Harrison County Auditor and Board of Revision. The property owner argues that the taxpayer should not be liable for procedural errors committed by the county.
  • Gator Milford v. Clermont County Transportation Improvement District centers on when the 30-day time limit for filing an appeal of a trial court’s decision begins. In the appeal, which involves the expansion of a three-lane highway in Clermont County, the property owner alleges that court rules concerning the proper notification of the trial court’s judgment to the parties were not followed. The Supreme Court has determined that a conflict exists between appellate courts on this issue.
  • A Dayton attorney objects in Dayton Bar Association v. Scaccia to the recommendation by the attorney disciplinary board that he be suspended for one year, with six months stayed. His misconduct included missing deadlines, improperly filing court documents, disregarding local court rules, and not maintaining complete records of how he spent money clients paid him. He maintains that his violations were a misunderstanding of his financial obligations and asks the court for a lesser sanction.
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