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Lawsuits force OU to pay for car damages

Ohio University has paid more than $8,000 for lawsuits about car-related damages, from a falling roof to flying baseballs on campus.

In the past three years, 19 people have filed lawsuits against OU claiming car damage. Of those already decided, only one has ended in OU’s favor, causing the university to pay far more than other universities in the state.

Of the 19 lawsuits, the court found in favor of the plaintiff 12 times. Four cases are still pending, one was transferred to a different court and only one was ruled in OU’s favor.

“If any citizens believe that their property has been damaged by the university, they can file a claim with the Ohio Court of Claims,” OU’s Risk Manager George Wendt said in an email.

When someone files a claim, Wendt investigates it for OU. He declined to comment further for fear of affecting pending investigations.

The court ruled in OU’s favor in March 2011 in a case against Jennifer Baker, who claimed the roof of her car was damaged by a pipe on the ceiling of the South Green parking garage while she was driving, according to court documents.

The court decided the damage to Baker’s car was her fault because OU had posted signs about the low-hanging pipes, which were being worked on, according to court documents.

Since 2009, 12 car-related cases have ended with rulings against OU and cost the university $8,241.73.

More than half of the money went to Lacy Male of Athens. She filed a complaint in July stating her car was damaged when part of the Bromley Hall roof flew off during a windstorm and hit her car in the nearby parking lot.

Male was granted $4,443.35 from OU, according to court documents.

The most common complaint, affecting five cases, was of cars being hit by baseballs or softballs while parked in Lot 111 by the Bob Wren Stadium and the softball field.

Two of those cases are still pending, but the plaintiffs involved in the other three received between $250 and $500 in damages.

Three cases were filed about damage caused in the University Center Parking Garage under Baker University Center and three in the South Green parking garage.

Two cases were filed about cars being hit by lawnmowers operated by OU employees, both ending in $275 in damages to the plaintiff.

Director of Legal Services John Biancamano declined to comment because of fear of affecting pending investigations.

The number of car-related cases against OU has cost the university far more than other universities in Ohio.

Miami University has had four cases since 2009 and has paid $2,297.13 in damages. Kent State University has seen 22 cases, all of which were dismissed without prejudice. Bowling Green State University only has one case, which remains pending.

Legal Services at Kent and Bowling Green could not be reached for comment. Robin Park, general counsel at Miami, declined to comment.

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