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Family of mangled student sues Ohio State

Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor

The family of an 18-year-old student who lost his leg after an on-campus accident is suing Ohio State and the contracted companies, alleging negligence and other charges and seeking tens of thousands of dollars in damages.
James Daniel Hughes, a first-year student from South Point, Ohio, was hit while on his way to class at about 2:45 p.m. on Sept. 5, close to the entrance of a construction site.
Hughes’ lawyer Steve Crandall said he has lost roughly one-third of his body, including his right leg and hip. He’s also dealt with a bone infection, and his family is seeking more than $25,000 each from OSU and the companies it contracted through two separate lawsuits.
But according to the lawsuit, the injuries do not end there. Hughes “sustained and will sustain past and future medical expenses, great pain and suffering, permanent injuries, temporary and permanent disability, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of enjoyment of life and future lost wages.”
OSU Police released a report last week on the four-month-long investigation of the accident concluding that no criminal charges will be filed. The report is hundreds of pages long and includes witness testimonies, officer narratives and emails from university officials.
OSU is being sued on three counts, the first of which includes intentional or negligent conduct.
OSU was responsible for ensuring vehicles came into and out of the construction site safely, according to the suit, and the safety of the pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic around the site’s borders. One construction company offered suggestions for safety improvement after the accident, but the suggestions came too late for Hughes.
The suit says that OSU failed to properly monitor the site and take necessary safety precautions, and Hughes’ injuries are a direct result of that.
The suit also aims to rectify the loss of services and companionship of Hughes to his family and the “mental anguish and emotional distress” they suffered.
The accident could have been prevented had OSU not been so negligent, according to the suit. It demands that OSU pay more than $25,000, court costs, punitive damages and other relief to which the Hughes family is entitled.
OSU spokeswoman Gayle Saunders declined to comment because the case is ongoing.
The companies OSU contracted to do construction on the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry Building (CBEC) site are also being sued for more than $25,000, court costs, punitive damages and other damages to which the Hughes family is entitled.
The CBEC project broke ground in June and is expected to be completed in 2014, according to Lantern archives. It will cost the university an estimated $126 million.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the entire Hughes family, including James Daniel Hughes’ parents, two sisters and one brother.
The contractors are being sued on five counts, one of which is construction. The suit says they “knew or should have known the CBEC site” was in one of the most pedestrian-dense locations on campus but failed to take the necessary precautions.
Like the case against OSU, the suit says the contractors should be held responsible for the anguish and distress of the Hughes family, and that this accident was completely preventable.
The dump truck, driven by 71-year-old Isaac Hinton, was working in the CBEC construction site, located near Woodruff Avenue.
Hinton and the Columbus-based company who owned the truck, Monesi Trucking and Equipment Repair, are among the defendants in the case.
After the accident on Sept. 5, Monesi was asked not to use the truck that ran over Hughes, according to the suit, but instead “intentionally and willfully” used the dump truck, therefore tampering with evidence.
Columbus-based McDaniel’s Construction Corp., Inc., Monroe, Ohio-based Baker Concrete Construction, Inc., and Cincinnati-based Baker Concrete Structures, LLC, all contracted with OSU for construction on the CBEC building and are defendants in the case.
CT Corporations Systems, Gilbane Building Company, Gilbane Development Company and Gilbane Inc. (referred to collectively as Gilbane), are also defendants. Gilbane, based in Cleveland, contracted with OSU for work at the CBEC site.
Cleveland-based Burt, Hill and New Haven, Conn.-based Pelli, Clark, Pelli, architectural and design firms that contracted with OSU for work on the CBEC building, are also defendants in the case.
Representatives from Burt, Hill did not immediately respond for comment, and representatives from the other companies listed as defendants declined to comment on the lawsuit.
“This lawsuit will be successful in proving justice for Daniel and his family as well as ensure nothing of this magnitude ever happens to another OSU student again,” Crandall said.
Crandall said there was no evidence that Hughes was actually riding his bike when the accident occurred, however several witnesses reported that is what they saw.
In the aftermath of the accident Brett Meyer, senior project executive with the Gilbane Building Company, sent several emails listing suggestions to improve the safety of the CBEC area prior to resuming construction traffic into the site on Sept. 10 according to the University Police report. His suggestions included adding additional signs to the four corners of the site warning onlookers to be aware of construction vehicles entering and leaving the roadway, as well as permanently closing the sidewalk on the south side of Woodruff Avenue, near where Hughes was hit. Meyer also said in his emails that he suggested the university use officers full-time during periods of construction when vehicles “enter and exit the site.”
Meyer also listed suggestions to be implemented by Sept. 28, which included installing “fisheye” mirrors at all construction entrances, replacing caution signs with flashing illuminated signs and removing light poles temporarily located on the south side of the Woodruff Avenue sidewalk.
Points Meyer listed that needed to be discussed further with the university included installing “rumble strips” on Woodruff Avenue to warn vehicles and bicyclists of the upcoming construction entrance, installing fencing on the north side of Woodruff Avenue to prevent students from crossing the street outside of the designated crosswalk and relocating the bus stop located near the northeast corner of the site.

Kristen Mitchell contributed to this article.


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