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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio court has declared Ohio State University legally responsible in the death of a Cleveland man who was run over by a medical professor on his way to a work-related conference.
The Ohio Court of Claims said in a ruling last week that the university must pay one-third of the damages assessed in a September 2010 crash in which Rolf Barth, a professor emeritus of pathology at Ohio State's College of Medicine, struck and killed Junior Lee Lane on Interstate 71 in Cuyahoga County. Barth was driving to a conference at the Cleveland Clinic at the time.
Lane's sister and executor, Darlene Lane Ferraro, sued the university for more than $25,000 in damages, because Barth was on a work assignment at the time.
The court said Barth was listening to "loud Russian martial music" and didn't realize Lane was standing on the busy highway. Lane was trying to re-attach a Corvette to a dolly that was being towed by a pickup truck at the time he was struck. Testimony indicated that Barth failed to slow down while several other motorists managed to navigate the scene safely.
Judge Patrick McGrath determined that Barth's negligence caused the accident. However, he also found that Lane's decision to get out of the truck on the busy highway also played a role in his death. Gary Fury, the driver of the pickup, was also faulted for stopping in the center of a highway lane after the Corvette became unattached rather than pulling over, summoning emergency assistance and remaining in his vehicle. Therefore, McGrath said Lane's estate and Fury will each bear a third of the liability for the crash.
Ferraro's attorney, Craig Bashein, said the court "correctly concluded that Dr. Rolf bore responsibility for this accident." But he disagreed that Lane also was partly responsible. He said Lane was "trying to correct an emergency situation so that they could get off the freeway."
Bashein said his client is prepared to proceed to the phase of the trial where damages will be determined. The next conference is scheduled for Jan. 7.
A message seeking comment from the university was not immediately returned.
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