Wrongful Death Claim Against Political Subdivision

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Fifth District Appellate Case

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2 of 97 DOCUMENTSDEANNA S. PANDYA, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. JAMES M. FROST, et al.,Defendants-AppelleesC.A. NO. 1978COURT OF APPEALS OF OHIO, NINTH APPELLATE DISTRICT, COUNTYOFWAYNE1984 Ohio App. LEXIS 11441August 29, 1984PRIOR HISTORY: [*1] APPEAL FROMJUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COMMON PLEASCOURT COUNTY OF WAYNE, OHIO, CASE NO. 80CI 375COUNSEL: GEORGE A. CLARK and TIMOTHY S.GUSTER, Attorneys at Law, 75 E. Market St., Akron,OH 44308 for Plaintiffs.MARK W. BASERMAN and MORRIS STUTZMAN,Attorneys at Law, 449 N. Market St., Wooster, OH 44691for Defendants.JUDGES:MAHONEY, J., QUILLIN, J., CONCUR.OPINION BY: BAIRD, P.J.OPINIONDECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRYThis cause was heard August 2, 1984, upon therecord in the trial court, including the transcript ofproceedings, and the briefs. It was argued by counsel forthe parties and submitted to the court. We have reviewedeach assignment of error and make the followingdisposition:On August 22, 1980, Dr. Shirish Pandya was arrestedby the Wayne County Sheriff's Department and chargedwith aggravated murder in the death of his ex-wife MaryPandya. Dr. Pandya was incarcerated in the WayneCounty jail. On Sunday, August 24, Dr, Pandya wasfound dead in his cell. He had committed suicide byhanging.Dr. Pandya's wife, Deanna, filed this action forherself and on behalf of Dr. Pandya's three childrenagainst the sheriff and his agents alleging negligence[*2] in the wrongful death of Dr. Pandya. After a trialon all issues the jury found in favor of the defendants.ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR"I. The trial court erred by permittingdefendants-appellees to present evidence concerning thecrime of which Dr. Shirish R. Pandya was accused,thereby permitting the jury to consider the guilt orinnocence of Dr. Shirish R. Pandya, and resulting in averdict based upon passion and prejudice."II. The trial court erred in not instructing the jurythat Dr. Shirish R. Pandya was entitled to be presumedinnocent of the crime of which he was accused untilproven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, therebypermitting the jury to consider the guilt or innocence ofDr. Shirish R. Pandya, and resulting in a verdict basedPage 1upon passion and prejudice."Pandya maintains that the various references to thereasons for Dr. Pandya's incarceration were improperlybefore the jury and were designed to incite passion andprejudice. Prior to trial Pandya moved for an order inlimine to preclude testimony regarding the events ofAugust 22, 1980, which led to Dr. Pandya's arrest. Thetrial court denied the motion and later admitted suchtestimony over the objection [*3] of counsel.Although the circumstances giving rise to this actionwere tragic, the statements allowed into evidence werewithin the realm of relevancy. Pandya was obliged toprove not only a breach of duty on the sheriff's part, butshe also had to demonstrate damages which resulted. Thetestimony regarding Dr. Pandya's arrest andincarceration was not only necessary to provide the jurywith the relevant background, but it also served tosuggest a limitation on Dr. Pandya's future earningability. The record indicates the appellant sought toprovide the jury with evidence of Dr. Pandya's agitatedand disturbed mental state. At the same time, however,Pandya attempted to preclude testimony regarding Dr.Pandya's actions leading up to the suicide. We concludethe motion in limine was properly denied and thetestimony should have been admitted.Pandya also maintains the trial court erred by failingto give a specific instruction regarding the presumption ofinnocence in criminal cases. Consideration of Dr.Pandya's innocence at the time of his death relates to hisfuture earnings capacity and the measure of damages.Before this court will reverse the judgment of [*4]the trial court, the appellant must demonstrate prejudicewhich resulted from any error. In the present case theappellant has failed to demonstrate prejudice. Theinterrogatories with the verdict indicate the jury found thesheriff was not negligent. Therefore, as it turned out,consideration of Dr. Pandya's future earnings was not anissue. Therefore, Pandya was not prejudiced by the trialcourt's failure to give a specific instruction. In addition,the court gave an appropriate charge as to the measure ofpecuniary damages. The assignments of error areoverruled.ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR III"The trial court erred by excluding evidence thatdefendants-appellants were on notice that it wasdangerous to fail to keep a prisoner in their custody underobservation, such notice being established by a previoussuicidal death of a prisoner in their custody, and suchevidence being offered for the limited purpose ofshowing notice."The prior suicides which Pandya sought to include toestablish notice on the part of the sheriff did not takeplace in the present jail. The ultimate test with respect toadmissibility is relevancy. The trial court determined thatsuch [*5] evidence was not relevant. We agree.Relevancy requires some nexus between the events,particularly when prior acts are used to demonstratenature of a condition. The prior suicides had taken placein conventional cells with bars. The testimonydemonstrates the facility in which Dr. Pandya was heldwas specifically designed without bars to preventsuicides. Any relevant similarities in the acts were lostbecause of the change in facilities. The testimony wasproperly excluded. The assignment of error is overruled.ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR IV"The trial court erred in application of the formerwrongful death statute."The appellant maintains the damage provision ofR.C. 2125.02, as amended, was omitted to her prejudice.We disagree. Since the jury failed to reach the issue ofdamages, the appellant was not prejudiced. Therefore, anew trial is not warranted. The assignment of error isoverruled.ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR V"The trial court erred by not grantingplaintiff-appellant a new trial based upon the ground thatthe jury verdict was manifestly against the weight of theevidence."We have reviewed the transcript of the trial and weconclude there [*6] was competent, credible evidence tosupport the jury's verdict. Therefore, we will not reversethe judgment as being against the weight of the evidence.C.E. Morris Co. v. Foley Construction Co. (1978), 54Ohio St. 2d 279. The assignment of error is overruled.The judgment is affirmed.The court finds that there were reasonable groundsfor this appeal.Page 21984 Ohio App. LEXIS 11441, *2We order that a special mandate, directing the County ofWayne Common Pleas Court to carry this judgment intoexecution, shall issue out of this court. A certified copyof this journal entry shall constitute the mandate,pursuant to App. R. 27.Immediately upon the filing hereof, this documentshall constitute the journal entry of judgment, and it shallbe file stamped by the Clerk of the Court of Appeals atwhich time the period for review shall begin to run. App.R. 22(E).Costs taxed to appellants.Exceptions.Page 31984 Ohio App. LEXIS 11441, *6