Man stuck in crashed car can’t sue deputy, can sue tow truck company

A court ruled that a man can continue with his lawsuit against a Busy Bee Towing after he crashed his car and was towed from the scene while still inside the vehicle. A deputy who responded to the scene and did not see the man, however, cannot be sued, the court ruled.
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A court ruled that a man can continue with his lawsuit against a Busy Bee Towing after he crashed his car and was towed from the scene while still inside the vehicle. A deputy who responded to the scene and did not see the man, however, cannot be sued, the court ruled.

The Dayton man who was towed away inside his wrecked car can’t sue the Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy for being reckless but can sue the tow-truck company, an Ohio appeals court ruled.

Mark Gilliam, who was injured during a Jan. 1, 2015, crash, had sued deputy Brian Crowe and Busy Bee Towing for not noticing he was still in his car after the accident. Gilliam was found six hours later and taken to a hospital with a collapsed lung, a dislocated hip and multiple fractures.

RELATED: Man stuck in crashed vehicle sues sheriff’s deputy

The Second District Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Gilliam did not put forth any information that Crowe knew his conduct at the scene would likely result in injury to Gilliam. The court also dismissed a claim against Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer for negligently training the deputy.

Crowe received a written reprimand after the incident, which happened at about 3 a.m. Jan. 1, 2015, after Gilliam’s car crashed into a utility pole.

RELATED: Deputy reprimanded for not noticing man in car before towing

Power lines that fell across the car had to be removed, and Busy Bee Auto Parts & Towing was called to remove the vehicle.

A Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge had dismissed a lawsuit in November 2016, and Gilliam’s attorney appealed the decision. The case was moved to Dayton’s U.S. District Court, where a judge dismissed federal claims and returned the case to common pleas.

RELATED: Sheriff to investigate why man was in crashed car

“We have scoured both Ohio law and the case law of jurisdictions across the country and have found no authority suggesting that a tow-truck driver who has been called by police to tow a vehicle has a general duty to inspect the inside of the vehicle before towing it,” Judge Michael T. Hall wrote in his decision. “This isn’t to say that a duty to inspect cannot exist in certain situations.

“In our opinion, there may be particular circumstances in which a duty to inspect does exists. It could be that the driver had in fact observed that Gilliam was still in the car, or that the driver was informed there was someone in the car.”

The appellate court did rule that claims against Busy Bee could go forward.

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