Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Ice Storm" Frivolous Lawsuit Would Be Tossed Out In Ohio

A Massachusetts man sued the city of Windham, New Hampshire and the state for a 2008 collision at an intersection where the traffic signals were disabled. One large problem, however: electrical power at the intersection, and many others, was gone because of a huge ice storm that affected 1.7 million local residents.

I'm not sure what New Hampshire law says but in Ohio:

1. A non-functional intersection turns it into a 4 way stop where every driver needs to use reasonable care when proceeding through the intersection; and

2. Cities and The State Of Ohio are legally immune from liability even if they were negligent in fixing the signal, were too slow to fix it, or did not adequately warn motorists. There are limited exceptions to this rule but they don't appear to apply to these facts.

Sorry but I wouldn't touch this case with a ten foot pole if it came to me in Ohio. A major ice storm knocks out power to millions, two cars crash at a downed intersection and one of the passengers is blaming the state for the crash? Why didn't he sue his friend for not proceeding through the intersection--IN AN ICE STORM--carefully?

In fact, if this case were filed in Ohio law there's a good chance a judge might find it frivolous. In Ohio, a frivolous lawsuit or claim is one that (1)serves merely to harass or maliciously injure another party, or is for another improper purpose; (2)is not warranted under existing law, cannot be supported by a good faith argument for a change of existing law, or for the establishment of new law; or (3) has no evidentiary support or is not likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.

Additionally, attorneys who file them can be forced to pay sanctions such as attorneys' fees. Surprisingly, many people demand laws against "frivolous lawsuits" unaware that states like Ohio have had laws outlawing them since the 1980's.

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