Ohio Supreme Court Announces Multiple Decisions
The Ohio Supreme Court today announced several decisions. Noteworthy cases are summarized below, and each includes a link to the Court’s complete opinion.
Lack of Jury Instruction at Trial in Ford Vehicle Crash Fire Confirmed as Proper
In Linert v. Foutz, the Court ruled that the trial court properly refused to instruct the jury on the post-market duty of manufacturers to warn consumers of defects in products that are not discovered until after the product has been sold. The case centered on a speeding drunk driver who slammed into the back of police officer Ross Linert’s department-issued 2005 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, triggering a fuel-fed fire that severely burned him. Linert alleged that Ford’s gasoline tank was defectively designed and manufactured, and that Ford had an obligation to inform him of those defects. A jury rejected Linert’s claims, but the appellate court held Ford should have warned Linert. The Supreme Court today ruled that there was a “paucity of evidence” presented at trial that Ford, after selling the cruiser to the police department, had gained additional knowledge of the likelihood of a risk of harm to those who used the cruiser. The Court reversed the appeals court judgment and remanded the case to the trial court to reinstate its judgment in favor of Ford.
Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Sharon L. Kennedy, and Judith L. French concurred in the opinion written by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. Justice William M. O’Neill wrote a dissent. Justice Paul E. Pfeifer dissented without an opinion.
Public Records Requestor Doesn’t Prove Violation of Public Records Act
In State ex rel. Shaughnessy v. Cleveland, the Court ruled that an attorney failed to show that the city of Cleveland had a clear legal duty to produce, or that he had a clear legal right to receive, police incident reports he requested within eight business days. Matthew Shaughnessy sought the records to attempt to recover economic losses for crime victims mentioned in the incident reports. The Court concluded that the city did not violate the Ohio Public Records Act and denied Shaughnessy’s requests for an order compelling Cleveland to produce the records within eight business days and for statutory damages. The Court found the city’s response timely, given the frequency and volume of the requests, and the steps involved in complying. These included reviewing and retrieving responsive records, culling records Shaughnessy did not want, and redacting protected information.
Chief Justice O’Connor and Justices Pfeifer, O’Donnell, Lanzinger, French, and O’Neill concurred in the per curiam opinion. Justice Kennedy wrote a dissent.
Testimony of Experienced Police Officer Sufficient to Prove Drugged Driving Impairment
In State v. Richardson, the Court ruled that the testimony of an experienced police officer that a defendant appeared to be under the influence of pain medication can support an OVI conviction. The officer’s experience is sufficient to prove impaired driving when the effects of the drug – in this instance hydrocodone – are sufficiently well-known. The Court reversed an appellate court judgment that held there was insufficient evidence to support Clinton Richardson’s OVI conviction. The Court also directed the appellate court to consider a different challenge brought by Richardson, one the appellate court previously held moot.
Chief Justice O’Connor and Justices O’Donnell and Kennedy concurred in the opinion written by Justice French. Justice Lanzinger wrote a dissent. Justice O’Neill also wrote a dissent, which was joined by Justice Pfeifer.
Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.
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