Ohio judge awards $1.4 million in wrongful death case

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The family of an Athens, Ohio, teen who died at a 2010 graduation party near Belpre, Ohio, is entitled to $1.4 million, a Washington County Common Pleas judge ruled on Feb. 6, 2012.

According to court records, the 19-year-old teen’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit following his death in June 2010. The young man was stabbed in a fight at the graduation party.

The lawsuit named the teen that stabbed him, who is now 18, and the boy’s grandparents, who are his legal guardians. It also named the Hockingport, Ohio, couple who planned the party, and the Belpre couple who owned the home where the party took place.

The judge ruled the 18-year-old male, his grandparents and the Hockingport couple are liable for the boy’s death. She said the couple who owned the home should not be responsible for the wrongful death settlement. The Hockingport couple paid them for the use of their home. They were not at the house during the party or when the fatal fight broke out.

The attorney representing the Athens teen’s family says he is unsure how much of the $1.4 million settlement the family will be able to collect. The victim’s mother says she plans to appeal the judge’s ruling excluding the Belpre couple from the settlement.

The young man accused of the stabbing says he was acting in self-defense during the fight. In February 2011, a Washington County Juvenile judge found him guilty of a misdemeanor manslaughter charge. He expressed concern that the defendant had pulled a knife during a fistfight.

In December 2011, Ohio’s Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed the decision.

The Hockingport couple pleaded guilty to one count each of furnishing alcohol to underage persons, a misdemeanor. Both of them were sentenced to a six-month term in the Washington County Jail.

Under Ohio’s comparative fault law, even if the victim in a wrongful death case is partially at fault, the family of the deceased may still be able to recover damages, as in this case.

Source: The Marietta Times, “$1.4M award Judge sides with family of teen who died at Belpre party,” Brad Bauer, Feb. 7, 2012