University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Plush v. Cincinnati PN-OH-0011
Docket / Court A1903752 ( State Court )
State/Territory Ohio
Case Type(s) Policing
Public Benefits / Government Services
Case Summary
On April 10, 2018, a sixteen-year-old boy was trapped in his minivan after the backseat unexpectedly folded and pinned him against the back door. He managed to place two 911 calls, during which he told the operator he was "stuck in a van" and "going to die soon," and he described the van and its ... read more >
On April 10, 2018, a sixteen-year-old boy was trapped in his minivan after the backseat unexpectedly folded and pinned him against the back door. He managed to place two 911 calls, during which he told the operator he was "stuck in a van" and "going to die soon," and he described the van and its location. No help arrived, and the boy died.

The boy's parents, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, filed a complaint on August 12, 2019, in the Ohio Court of Common Pleas for Hamilton County. Represented by Al Gerhardstein, they sued the city of Cincinnati, the city manager, the employees who took the 911 calls, and the police officers who responded to the 911 calls. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants had violated state law in recklessly and negligently causing the wrongful death of their son. They called attention to individual actions from the call takers and police officers as well as the city's Emergency Call Center, which had both personnel and technology issues in recent years. The plaintiffs requested compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and injunctive relief for the city to reform its emergency call system.

On the same day as the complaint, the plaintiffs also moved for a temporary restraining order. The case was assigned to Judge Robert P. Ruehlman.

Seeking both political subdivision and individual immunity, the defendants moved to dismiss the case on October 8, 2019. On January 22, 2020, the trial court denied the motion. Regarding political subdivision immunity, it held that the defendants had not conclusively shown that the immunity was apparent on the face of the complaint. For individual immunity, the court held that city employees acting outside the scope of official responsibilities was an exception to immunity, and that the complaint alleged facts to show that it was possible the city employees had done so. 2020 WL 9439519.

The next day, the defendants appealed to the Ohio First District Court of Appeals. On December 16, 2020, the appeals court remanded the case, affirming in part and denying in part the trial court's decision. The appeals court held that political subdivision immunity did apply, and that an exception would have been appropriate for the creation of a 911 system but not for improvements to the system. It also held that the city employees were immune in their official capacities because the plaintiffs' son died on private property, in the parking lot of his private school. The appeals court affirmed the trial court's decision that the city employees were not immune in their individual capacities because the plaintiffs sufficiently alleged at least recklessness. 164 N.E.3d 1056.

On April 9, 2021, the parties agreed on a settlement. The defendants were to pay $6 million in damages and attorneys' fees to the plaintiffs. In addition, the defendants agreed to spend $250,000 to hire outside experts to review the city's operations for handling 911 calls. These experts would identify areas for improvement and help set goals for the city. The parties agreed that these goals should center around implementing industry best practices and standards, quality assurance for calls and dispatching, steps to achieve accreditation, staff training and retention, and improving responses to calls that are labeled as "unknown trouble." The goals would be set within thirty days of the agreement, and the team of experts would issue a public report after six months. The city agreed to implement the recommendations from the team of experts and publish progress reports every six months. The settlement agreement would last five years.

With the settlement agreement in place, the court dismissed the case with prejudice on June 22, 2021. The terms of the settlement agreement are set to expire in 2026.

Lauren Yu - 07/20/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Auditing
Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)
Hire
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Reporting
Training
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Government Services (specify)
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Personal injury
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) City of Cincinnati
Plaintiff Description The parents of a sixteen-year-old boy who died from being pinned by the backseat of his minivan after calling 911 to no avail.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2021 - 2026
Filed 08/12/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Court Docket(s)
State Trial Court
06/25/2021
A 1903752
PN-OH-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
State Trial Court
Settlement Agreement and Release
PN-OH-0011-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
State Trial Court
Settlement Agreement and Release
PN-OH-0011-0006.pdf | Detail
State Trial Court
08/12/2019
Complaint and Jury Demand
PN-OH-0011-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: Westlaw
State Trial Court
01/22/2020
Entry Overruling Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (2020 WL 9439519)
PN-OH-0011-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Westlaw
State Supreme Court
12/16/2020
Opinion (164 N.E.3d 1056)
PN-OH-0011-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Supreme Court website
not recorded
04/09/2021
Plush Family and Cincinnati Agree to 911 Improvements and Financial Settlement
PN-OH-0011-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
show all people docs
Judges Bergeron, Pierre H. Court not on record show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0001
Crouse, Candace C. Court not on record show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0001
Mock, Russell Court not on record show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0001
Ruehlman, Robert P Court not on record show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0003 | PN-OH-0011-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Branch, Jennifer L. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0002 | PN-OH-0011-9000
Gerhardstein, Alphonse A. (Ohio) show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0002 | PN-OH-0011-0004 | PN-OH-0011-0005 | PN-OH-0011-0006 | PN-OH-0011-9000
Hyatt, Mary Caroline (Ohio) show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0002 | PN-OH-0011-0004 | PN-OH-0011-0006 | PN-OH-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Manning, Mark R (Ohio) show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0004 | PN-OH-0011-0006 | PN-OH-0011-9000
Rutowski, Kimberly (Ohio) show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0004 | PN-OH-0011-0006 | PN-OH-0011-9000
Tallent, Virginia (Ohio) show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0004 | PN-OH-0011-0006 | PN-OH-0011-9000
Woerner, Emily (Ohio) show/hide docs
PN-OH-0011-0004 | PN-OH-0011-0006 | PN-OH-0011-9000

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