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Published: Wednesday, 4/20/2005

Accident victim sues Erie County sheriff's dept.

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

SANDUSKY - A Huron, Ohio, woman has sued the Erie County Sheriff's Department and one of its deputies, alleging that the officer's failure to heed a stop sign caused a 2003 auto accident that left her permanently injured.

A complaint filed by Barbara Poland in Erie County Common Pleas Court states that she suffered multiple arm and leg fractures and has incurred more than $257,000 in medical costs since the collision Nov. 21, 2003, at the intersection of Mason Road and State Rt. 13 in Milan Township.

According to the Sandusky post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, Deputy Beth Beatty was responding to an emergency call with her Ford Crown Victoria cruiser's lights and sirens activated when she drove

eastbound through a stop sign on Mason and was struck by Ms. Poland's southbound Buick Regal.

The suit says Deputy Beatty "recklessly entered the intersection without due regard for the safety of Plaintiff Barbara S. Poland, causing a collision." It says she has lost more than $36,000 in wages and requests damages in excess of $25,000.

The highway patrol reported at the time of the crash that Deputy Beatty had been responding to a call of an overdose and possible suicide at a residence on Arlington Road when the accident occurred. Ms. Poland's suit claims that "at the time of the collision, the emergency had abated."

Ms. Poland's attorney, Kevin Zeiher of Sandusky, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Medina County Prosecutor Dean Holman, who reviewed the highway patrol's investigation as a special prosecutor, decided not to charge Deputy Beatty.

"I just reviewed it and didn't think it merited criminal prosecution," Mr. Holman said yesterday. "As I recall, her speed wasn't that excessive."

The speed on both roads at the intersection is 55 mph.

Mr. Holman cited a state law that allows emergency vehicles to proceed through red lights or stop signs if they have their lights and sirens activated and use "due regard for the safety of others."

That law "causes a lot of confusion among juries," the prosecutor said.

Deputy Beatty has been a sheriff's department employee since 1988, when she was hired as a dispatcher. She became a road deputy in 2001.

The suit states that Ms. Poland was taken by helicopter after the accident to Medical College of Ohio Hospitals, where she underwent "numerous surgical procedures," followed by "extensive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation."

"Plaintiff Barbara S. Poland's injuries were painful and permanent, and she will continue to suffer from the results of these injuries for the remainder of her life," the suit says.

The complaint also names the Erie County commissioners, Northern Ohio Rural Water, the Loren W. and Agnes B. Heckelman Trust, and Heckelman Family Limited Partnership as defendants.

The suit argues that those entities contributed to the crash by allowing trees and other vegetation on land they owned near the intersection to obstruct motorists' sight lines. The complaint also names St. Paul Travelers Insurance Co., Ms. Poland's auto insurer at the time of the accident, as a defendant.

The case has been assigned to Judge Tygh Tone.

Contact Steve Murphy at:

smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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