OTTAWA — The Road 5 trial came to a close Thursday when Marilyn Horstman and the Nienberg family accepted a settlement rather than take their case before the jury.
In 2012, the Putnam County Commissioners used eminent domain to take property from residents along Road 5 to widen the roadway by 10 feet on either side for safety reasons. While most residents accepted the good faith offers for their property, 13 residents opposed the commissioners. These 13 did not view the offers as fair and they took issue with the commissioners violating a number of Ohio Sunshine Act laws while while they pushed to get the project started.
For six years, a legal battle has been going on between the commissioners and those residents. Judge Dale Crawford encouraged the two sides attempt to reach settlements during a pre-trial hearing Sept. 27. While most residents accepted the settlement offers, three did not and took their cases before eight jurors.
Those jurors returned verdicts for two of the remaining three Road 5 residents Wednesday during day two of the trial. The jury found William and Mary Kay Weis and Mark and Patricia Maag were only entitled to the original offers made to them in 2012 when the project was completed. The Weis family was awarded the $10,000 originally offered to them and the Maags were awarded the originally offered $6,755.
The settlement offered to the Nienbergs Thursday was for a total of $3,036, three times the original $1,012 for four acres offered in 2012. It also included these stipulations: the county agrees to pay their court costs, each side agreed to pay their own attorney fees and a federal court case filed by Horstman would be withdrawn with prejudice, said Frank Reed, a Columbus based attorney representing the commissioners.
“I think the Putnam County Commissioners are pleased with the verdicts and that the jury listened very carefully to the evidence and followed the law to reach a verdict that was just,” Reed said, hoping the Road 5 case is over.
Weis and Maag have 30 days to file appeals with the 3rd District Appellate Court.
Linde Webb, the Toledo-based attorney representing the Maag and Weis families, said they will be filling appeals because combining the remaining three cases into one case insured her clients wouldn’t receive fair trials, she said.
“The same jury hearing three cases can take from the first case to the second and third,” Webb said. “I’ve never had that happen, ever, in 30 years of doing eminent domain cases.”
They also didn’t have an expert witness they could call on to testify to appraise and give their professional opinion on the quality of the three properties after Road 5 was expanded. If they had an expert witness, the jury would have had a range of information to draw on in their deliberation instead of just hearing from the commissioners’ expert and the land owners, she said.
Webb said she has every intention of filing appeals.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362