Every so often, the Supreme Court of Ohio hears verbal arguments somewhere other than in its courtroom. All hearings of the Supreme Court of Ohio are open to the public, but we seldom want to travel to Columbus to listen. Beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 11, we need only travel to Ottawa to hear the arguments involving three, potentially society-changing cases.
Prior to the hearing in Ottawa-Glandorf High School’s Auditorium (which is open to the public), the Ohio Supreme Court will have received documents explaining the various parties’ positions (called “briefs” even though legal briefs seldom have brevity). As to each case to be heard, the person or entity that wants to change the decision from the lower court of appeals has filed a brief of approximately 100 pages. The other person or entity has filed a brief of similar size. And, multiple, other documents have been filed in the meantime.
The first case involves college football players and alleged brain damage caused from playing college football. Although a Notre Dame student in the 1970s, a (then-former) player sued Notre Dame in 2012. In the lawsuit, the former player asked Notre Dame and the NCAA for money due to former player’s 2012 diagnosis of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The former player argued that the tackling methods taught to Notre Dame football players in the 1970s caused the former player’s 2012 CTE diagnosis.
There is a two-year statute of limitations in Ohio for claims for bodily harm (as is alleged in this case). The primary question the Court will deal with is whether the two-year statute of limitations is calculated from the date of the injury (the 1970s, when the student experienced concussions in practice and in games) or the date of official medical diagnosis in 2012. Since the date when the case was filed in 2012, the man has died, and his estate has assumed his position in the litigation.
The second case deals with who bears the burden of proof in proving that someone “blacked out” such that the person is not legally liable for crimes committed during that blackout.
Ohio law excepts a person from criminal liability for acts done while the person was “blacked out” due to disease or injury. The defendant in this second case had possibly blacked out due to alcohol consumption or because the defendant had been repeatedly punched.
If a jury cannot decide one way or the other as to whether the person had blacked out, is the person guilty or not guilty? Is the person not guilty, because the government did not prove the person did not black out? Or is the person guilty, because the person did not prove he or she actually did black out?
The third case to be heard deals with whether a lawsuit or appeal can be dismissed, because it is “frivolous.” This case starts with a man accused of a crime. In the midst of the man’s case, the man filed several appeals.
After the man was convicted, the government seized the man’s assets under civil forfeiture law, which is a significant point of contemporary discussion in American society. After seizing the man’s car, the government sold the car at a public auction, almost certainly for less than the car’s fair market value.
Then, the man ultimately had his conviction overturned. The man asked the government to give him the fair market value of the car rather than the price received for the car at the public auction.
Instead of arguing about what amount of money should be paid to the man, the government has alleged that the man’s numerous, prior filings along with the fact that the man’s brief (which the man prepared and filed without an attorney) only cited one legal decision, is “frivolous” as a matter of law and should therefore be dismissed for that reason alone.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.