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Bowman v. Downs

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

April 6, 2017


         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-16-863083

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Michael Aten

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES Michael R. Gareau Jr. City Law Director, Bryan P. O'Malley Assistant Director of Law, Amily A. Imbrongno James A. Climer Frank H. Scialdone Mazanec Raskin, Ryder Co., L.P.A.

          BEFORE: Jones, J., Stewart, P.J., and Laster Mays, J.



         {¶1} In this accelerated appeal, [1] we decide whether the trial court properly granted the motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by the defendants-appellees. For the reasons that follow, we find that it did and affirm its judgment.

         {¶2} Ted Bowman, plaintiff-appellant, filed this action, pro se, against the city of North Olmsted and the following North Olmsted police officers: John Downs, Manny Roman, Angel Walling, and Oliver Wolcott.[2]

         {¶3} In his complaint, Bowman alleged that on May 11, 2015, the police were dispatched to his North Olmsted home, where he resided with his then- girlfriend, Deborah Ness. Ness had an outstanding arrest warrant for failing to appear before the North Olmsted Mayor's Court. According to the complaint, both Bowman and Ness were "known to the North Olmsted Police Department due to Ness's numerous prior arrests and citations for offenses of domestic violence and disorderly conduct while intoxicated, as well as her repeated failure to attend court appearances arising from such incidents, and to Bowman's having been the victim or complainant with respect to a number of the offenses."

         {¶4} Bowman alleged that when the police, Officers Downs and Roman, arrived on the day in question, Ness was in a "state of agitation and severe inebriation." The officers did not arrest Ness pursuant to the outstanding warrant; rather, they had her sign a personal recognizance bond form and gave her a new hearing date.

         {¶5} After the officers had left, Ness called Bowman, who presumably had not been home during the encounter, and told him that the "county sheriffs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had forcibly entered the house and seized some unspecified documents." At some point thereafter, Bowman arrived home and found Ness "highly intoxicated." Bowman saw the personal recognizance form, and questioned Ness about what she had previously told him. The complaint alleged that Ness then threatened Bowman's life. A physical altercation between the two ensued while they were in the kitchen, with Ness striking Bowman several times with a billy club. Bowman gained control of the billy club and struck Ness.

         {¶6} Bowman alleged that after the altercation, Ness went to sleep on the living room couch and he took the dog for a walk. He considered calling the police, but decided against it because the police had "already failed to do their duty to arrest Ness on the warrant" and, therefore, he surmised that calling them would be of "little use."

         {¶7} According to the complaint, after walking the dog, Bowman went upstairs to his bedroom to go to sleep, and fearful of another attack by Ness, barricaded himself in the room. Approximately one hour later, Bowman became aware that the police were at his house again; this time it was Officers Walling and Wolcott.

         {¶8} Bowman went downstairs and found the officers in the kitchen, which had been "rearranged and looked much less disheveled" than it looked after Ness and Bowman's physical altercation. Officer Walling stated that they found the billy club on the kitchen table and asked Bowman if he wanted to go to the hospital. Bowman declined to go to the hospital because he did not have insurance, but asked the officers if they would examine his injuries; the officers refused.

         {¶9} The complaint alleged one claim on which relief was sought: negligence. The following was alleged in support of the claim: (1) that the police owed a "duty to exercise ordinary care under the circumstances"; (2) Officers Downs and Roman breached that duty by failing to arrest Ness; (3) injury to Bowman was "foreseeable within the scope of risk" created by Officers Downs and Romans; (4) that their failure to act was the "proximate cause" of injury to Bowman; and (5) that Bowman was further injured by Officers Walling and Wolcott's failure to "properly investigate and examine Bowman." In addition to alleging liability on the individual ...

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