$20 Million Lawsuit Over Ohio Crash Ends in Dismissal

A US District Court judge in Ohio has brought an end to a three-year battle between the mother of a man who died in a 2017 car accident, a township police department, and several area fire departments. LeLonne Tucker filed a $20 million lawsuit alleging that a police chase caused the wreck, and negligence by the fire department resulted in her son’s body going unnoticed in the vehicle for eight hours.

Jermaine Tucker, 21, died on September 20, 2017 shortly after police called off the chase of a speeding vehicle driven by Mussah Pierre, 36. Another man, John Edwards, 35, was also killed in the crash. All three men were in the vehicle when it hit a tree. The vehicle was so mangled that responders apparently did not realize that Tucker’s body was still in the back seat. According to news reports, handguns and marijuana were found in the vehicle. Tucker’s body was discovered when the vehicle was impounded.

The suit initially named the Springfield Township Police Department and the Elmwood Fire Department. After some clarification, the Carthage Fire Department was named before it was eventually determined that the proper party was the Cincinnati Fire Department. However, LeLonne brought the case pro se, and despite efforts by the judge and a magistrate, she was unable to navigate the legal bureaucracy. As explained in the dismissal decision:

  • The allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint are tragic.
  • However, the Court is under no obligation to track down Plaintiff to preserve her lawsuit.
  • Plaintiff has been repeatedly warned that certain defendants and her claims may be dismissed for failing to timely respond and for failing to comply with this Court’s orders. Moreover, the Magistrate Judge, on at least two occasions, ordered Plaintiff that she must inform the Court promptly of any changes in address that may occur during the pendency of the lawsuit.
  • Plaintiff had multiple issues serving the Elmwood Fire Department.
  • Eventually, it became clear that Plaintiff was either serving the Elmwood Fire Department at the incorrect address, or incorrectly named the Elmwood Fire Department instead of the City of Cincinnati Fire Department.
  • Thus, on February 20, 2020, the Magistrate Judge granted Plaintiff leave to either: (1) serve the Elmwood Fire Department at the proper address; or (2) file an amended complaint.
  • On March 6, 2020, Plaintiff filed her first amended complaint, naming the Springfield Township Police Department (again) and the Carthage Fire Department Station 2; thus, abandoning any claims against the Elmwood Fire Department.
  • The Magistrate Judge struck the Springfield Township Police Department, since any claims against it had already been dismissed with prejudice, and ordered the Carthage Fire Department to be served.
  • The summons issued to the Carthage Fire Department was returned unexecuted.
  • Plaintiff did not file evidence or a motion for reconsideration.
  • Instead, on October 7, 2020, Plaintiff filed her second amended complaint against the City of Cincinnati Fire Department, the Springfield Township Police Department (again), and Michael A. Flamm.
  • This complaint abandoned any claims against the Carthage Fire Department.
  • The second Report, submitted July 19, 2021, recommends that the City of Cincinnati Fire Department’s motion to dismiss be granted, and Plaintiff’s claims against it dismissed for failure to state a claim.
  • Plaintiff did not submit any objections to this second Report. The Court has reviewed the second Report, is satisfied that there is nothing clearly erroneous or contrary to law on the face of the record, and accepts the Magistrate Judge’s recommendations.
  • Plaintiff’s claims against the City of Cincinnati Fire Department are dismissed. Upon dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims against the City of Cincinnati Fire Department, no defendants remain in this case and this action will be terminated.

Here is a copy of the ruling:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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