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Published: Wednesday, 10/17/2012

Parents, girlfriend accept $1.57M to settle lawsuit

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

PORT CLINTON — The family of an Elmore man killed in a crash with a volunteer firefighter and the young woman who survived agreed this week to settle their claims against the firefighter and the Portage Fire District for $1.57 million.

John and Maureen Huffman, parents of Ian Huffman, 24, who died in the July 16, 2010, crash, and the victim’s girlfriend, Olivia Duty, 22, of Woodville, who was driving the car, filed the wrongful-death and personal-injury lawsuit last year in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court against Timothy Johnson and the Portage Fire District.

In July, Mr. Johnson, 43, of the Oak Harbor area, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of negligent vehicular homicide and attempted negligent vehicular homicide. Last month, retired Ottawa County Common Pleas Judge Paul Moon sentenced him to nine months in jail and suspended his driver’s license for three years.

John Huffman, who acted as co-counsel in the civil suit with Sandusky attorney John T. Murray, said while “there’s no way to compensate for the loss of a child,” the settlement may help him, his wife, and Ms. Duty get on the road toward closure.

“The other thing is any time a lawsuit like this is brought, it helps educate the firemen and hopefully they learn to be more careful in the future,” Mr. Huffman said. “They have an obligation to operate their vehicles with due regard for the safety of the public. It does not give them the right to speed, especially at insanely excessive speeds.”

Prosecutors had alleged Mr. Johnson was driving his personal vehicle as fast as 98 mph on State Rt. 19 on his way to the fire station in Oak Harbor just seconds before he crashed into the rear of Ms. Duty’s car at Portage River South Road. Mr. Johnson’s jury trial on felony charges ended in a mistrial, though, after the prosecution introduced evidence that had not been disclosed to the defense beforehand.

After the plea agreement and sentencing, Mr. Johnson was ordered to begin serving his jail sentence immediately but was later granted work release, which enabled him to continue working at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant.

Contacted Tuesday, Cleveland attorney D. John Travis, who represented the fire district in the civil suit, had no comment.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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