COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Supreme Court of Ohio has unanimously ruled in favor of two people who were struck by an East Cleveland police cruiser during a 2008 chase.
In a slip opinion, the court ordered the city to pay $12.6 million total to both 61-year-old Charles Hunt and the family of Merylin Conard, who died in 2019 at the age of 63. The pair were riding in a car together almost 15 years ago when they collided with a law enforcement vehicle being driven by Officer Todd Carroscia, who was in pursuit of a stolen motorcycle.
In an interview with 3News back in 2019 (eight months before Conard's death), both Hunt and Conard described the serious injuries they suffered during the incident. Carroscia had been driving at an estimated speed of 70 miles per hour at the time of the crash, blowing through a red light on St. Clair Avenue and failing to turn his sirens on.
"After I saw the pictures, I didn't even believe I was still living," Hunt said.
"It bothers me because I can't walk," Conard added at the time. "I can't do [any] of the things I used to do."
The pair sued the city as well as Carroscia, and in 2017 a Cuyahoga County jury ruled in their favor and awarded them $11.1 million. East Cleveland appealed the ruling and lost multiple times (even being denied an audience before the U.S. Supreme Court), but failed to pay up.
Among other arguments, defendants argued the city was immune from liability under Ohio law and that only Carroscia should be held responsible. The court flatly rejected that assertion, writing that "the city is liable under [state law] for the injuries caused by Carroscia's willful and wanton misconduct in his operation of a motor vehicle during an emergency call."
"The city's arguments in this case are an impermissible attempt to relitigate the unsuccessful defenses it raised at trial and the arguments it lost on appeal," the seven justices added.
As of 2019, Carroscia was still listed as a member of the East Cleveland Police Department. New Police Chief Brian Gerhard has previously pledged to cut down on the number of high-speed pursuits by officers.
The $12.6 million comes after the state Supreme Court added more than $1 million in interest payments. You can read the justices' full decision below: