Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court of Claims Lets Two State Agencies Pay $443,000 to Settle Amputation Accident Claims

William Andrew Campbell v. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Case No. 2013-00502

Gary Dunn v. Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Et. Al., Case No. 2013-00142

Accidents resulting in a state park mower operator losing a hand and a prison inmate having an infected leg and damaged toes removed led to $443,000 in settlements approved by the Ohio Court of Claims between the victims and two state agencies in two cases.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) agreed to pay $408,000 to William Andrew Campbell on December 19 stemming from an August 2011 accident on the Shawnee State Park golf course. On December 12, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) settled with Pickaway Correctional Institute inmate Gary Dunn who was injured in October 2012, while being transported to receive medical care.

The settlement with Campbell came after Court of Claims Judge Patrick McGrath denied ODNR’s motion from summary judgment in August. Campbell accused the agency with violating Ohio’s intentional tort law, charging ODNR’s removal of safety equipment from the tractor he was using to spread the seed made the agency aware that “injury was substantially certain to occur.”

The settlement, which is pending approval by the state Controlling Board, releases ODNR of all claims made by Campbell and is not to be construed as an admission of liability.

Campbell testified that he had about 20 to 25 hours of experience driving the tractor with the attached seed-spreading arm when the accident occurred. The tractor was equipped with a seat safety switch that was supposed to turn off the power to the engine if the tractor operator got out of the seat. A guard shield was to be over the gear box where the spreader and the tractor are joined. An accident investigator said the seat switch had been bypassed so that the engine did not turn off, and while there was not a shield over the gear box, the parties disputed whether it would have prevented the accident if it had been on the machine.

While spreading seed, Campbell saw that sod was stuck in the spreader and when he went to remove it, his shirt sleeve caught near the gear box and his left arm was pulled into the machine. The accident resulted in his left hand being amputated.

ODNR argued that Campbell was at fault as he was trained not to approach the tractor arms when the engine was running and did not need to remove the sod to complete his task. Judge McGrath ruled that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to who was at fault and ruled the court would have to hear further evidence. The parties then reached a settlement.

In the second case, DRC’s $35,000 settlement with Dunn was approved by the court on December 12. In October 2012, Dunn and other Pickaway Correctional Institute inmates were placed in the rear of a DRC vehicle to be transported to the prison system’s Franklin Medical Center for care. Dunn was seated in a wheelchair, which was secured to the vehicle’s floor, but Dunn was not secured to the wheelchair.

The DRC driver failed to properly yield in traffic on the way to the center and slammed on the brakes to avoid an accident. The braking launched Dunn from the chair and he hit another inmate’s wheelchair. Upon arrival at the medical center, doctors found Dunn suffered a broken leg and numerous cuts. He was immediately transported to The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center for treatment.

The OSU staff determined that two of Dunn’s toes on his right foot were injured in the accident and needed to be amputated. While hospitalized, the staff discovered a sore on Dunn’s left heel was infected and required amputating his left leg below the knee.
Dunn agreed to release all claims against DRC and to not construe the settlement as an admission of liability by DRC.

The Court of Claims is given original jurisdiction to hear and determine all civil actions filed against the State of Ohio and its agencies.

To access information on other cases, visit the Court of Claims website.

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