Thursday, October 7th, 2010
City of St. Marys pursues lawsuit for frivolous litigation
By Janie Southard
ST. MARYS - The city intends to pursue a lawsuit for frivolous litigation following a decision this week by the Third District Court of Appeals to uphold a lower court's decision in a $10 million lawsuit against the St. Marys Police Department and a St. Marys officer.
In April 2010, Mercer County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Ingraham dismissed the case against the St. Marys Police Department and officer Tom Kennedy, finding each of the 16 charges lodged by Charles Black of Rockford without merit. The appellate court on Tuesday agreed with Ingraham.
In their decision, the appeals judges wrote: "Although Black's claim should have been dismissed irrespective of its merits, we also note officer Kennedy and St. Marys were immune from liability pursuant to (the Ohio Revised Code) ... There were no facts sufficient to support an exception to immunity, as it was clear officer Kennedy acted within the scope of his duties when entering Black's property to serve the citation."
Black was assessed court costs, to be determined.
"We are pleased with the decision. Patrolman Kennedy was doing as instructed and both courts found that to be true. (Black) still has an opportunity to appeal to the state supreme court and we have no idea what he plans. However, we will pursue a lawsuit for frivolous litigation," said St. Marys Law Director Kraig Noble this morning.
Originally filed in June 2009 by Black and his daughter, Stephanie Black, the suit alleged officer Kennedy trespassed on Black's property on Lombard Road to serve Stephanie Black with a misdemeanor citation following an alleged incident in downtown St. Marys in March 2009.
According to the police report, Stephanie Black was approached by Kennedy after she and her boyfriend left a downtown St. Marys bar on March 5, 2009. Stephanie Black, who allegedly was sitting behind the wheel of a station wagon in a Chestnut Street parking lot, was asked by Kennedy to undergo a sobriety test.
The officer determined Black was under the influence and took her to jail, where she was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a first-degree misdemeanor. She subsequently pleaded not guilty to the charge and a jury trial was set.
Kennedy reportedly went to the Blacks' home June 20, 2009, in an attempt to deliver Stephanie Black a second citation for failure to maintain physical control related to the March incident.
Shortly after Blacks' lawsuit was filed, Charles Black told the Daily Standard he asked Kennedy to leave his property six times, but the officer refused and threatened to arrest Charles Black for disrupting official business. Charles Black threatened to use a backhoe to remove the officer from his land.
A Mercer County sheriff's deputy was summoned to the scene and eventually served the citation to Stephanie Black on behalf of the St. Marys police department.
Serving as his own attorney, Charles Black filed the $10 million lawsuit alleging 16 actions against the St. Marys officer and the police department, including: Trespassing, negligence, harassment, slander, conspiracy and disorderly conduct.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, law enforcement officers are provided immunity from several of the actions alleged by Black. In his decision, Ingraham wrote: "There is no evidence Officer Kennedy had any intentions aside from serving a citation on Ms. Black ... He voluntarily retreated from fulfilling his duties when threatened by Mr. Black."