Student hit by dump truck has ‘waited long enough’ for police report, lawyer demands answers
Published: Thursday, December 20, 2012
Updated: Friday, December 21, 2012 20:12
Nearly four months have passed since Daniel Hughes, an 18-year-old chemical engineering student at Ohio State, was hit and run over by a construction truck, and as no police report has been released, many details on the case remain unknown. Hughes’ lawyer said he’s willing to take legal action against the university for not cooperating and for not making routine information available.
While Hughes broke his silence to the media when he spoke with ABC-6 Tuesday, Steve Crandall, the Hughes’ lawyer, said he’s handling media inquiries for the Hughes family. The Lantern’s requests for comment from Hughes and his father, David Hughes, were unsuccessful.
Daniel Hughes was released from the Wexner Medical Center last month after being hospitalized since the Sept. 5 incident on Woodruff Avenue, and until last Friday, he had been receiving treatment at Dodd Hall Inpatient Rehabilitation Center in Columbus. Wednesday was Daniel Hughes’ first day of his outpatient therapy program.
Daniel Hughes’ parents and three younger siblings have since left their hometown of South Point, Ohio, and rented a Columbus apartment to be with Daniel Hughes during the holidays and as he goes through rehabilitation and continual pelvic surgeries to control a bone infection.
Crandall said that as Daniel Hughes tries to cope with the loss of roughly one-third of his body, including his right leg and hip, Crandall continues to search for answers from the university about the specific details of the accident.
“It’s frustrating to Daniel and his entire family that there’s still no report or time frame for when the report will be released,” Crandall said. “What is delaying that report, or even a portion of the report so that we can interview witnesses? I’ve been asking those questions but have found silence on those topics.”
Crandall said he met with OSU Police on Oct. 8 and had been promised that a police report would be out that week, but no report was supplied. In November, Crandall said he had been informed that the report was awaiting approval from Capt. David Rose of OSU Police, which was expected to take a few days. A month and a half has passed since then, and no report is available at this time.
There are statutes in place to ensure that reports are released in a reasonable time frame. According to Ohio Revised Code, a traffic crash report, typically a three-to four-page document that tells what happened and who is involved, should be made available within five days of the incident.
Crandall said it’s unacceptable that information about the accident has not been released and that his requests for it are not unreasonable.
“OSU is a public institution — campus police are public employees. They are there to serve the public, but they’ve been treating us in a poor manner and are not upholding their service to the public,” Crandall said. “The university has not lived up to its promises to Daniel and his family for open communication.”
In an emailed statement to The Lantern, OSU Chief of Police Paul Denton said University Police continues to investigate the accident but made no indication of when a report might be ready.
“We continue to be concerned with the well-being of Daniel and his family,” Denton said in the email. “The Ohio State University Police Division continues to thoroughly investigate all of the facts of this accident. We are in the review process for completing our investigation. When it is completed we will share it with the Hughes family and Mr. Crandall.”
The email from Wednesday mirrored an emailed statement Denton provided for a Lantern article on Dec. 4.
Crandall said he has requested “routine information” from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, but those requests have also gone unanswered.
“This is becoming a case of one family against large state institutions, and that’s unacceptable,” Crandall said. “I’m afraid that Daniel’s case has been forgotten by the university and that, for them, it’s business as usual."
The family’s lawyer said the family has “waited long enough” for the police report and for the cooperation from the university and its lawyers. While the 11th Amendment guarantees sovereign immunity for the states, which applies to OSU as a state-run university, Crandall said his next step is to take legal action against the university in a court of claims.
According to Ohio Revised Code, civil actions can be filed against state institutions in a court of claims.
A lawsuit against Monesi Trucking and Equipment Repair, whose employee was driving the truck that hit and ran over Daniel Hughes, has already been filed.
Hughes’ accident was one of several accidents in the campus area since the beginning of the semester. The day after Hughes’ accident, OSU student Yifan Gu was struck by a bicyclist near Chumley’s on High Street and was transported to the Medical Center with injuries.
On Aug. 19, first-year student Rachel Stump was struck by a drunk driver near the South Campus Gateway. Stump, who was in a coma following the accident, is recovering in her hometown of Troy, Ohio.
In response to these accidents as well as others with less severe injuries, the university created a Traffic Safety Task Force to enhance traffic safety on campus. The task force was initially formed on Sept. 7 and was expected to make recommendations by Oct. 1. Fifteen days later than the expected deadline, the task offered its short- and long-term suggestions, which included an education campaign, increased signage at crosswalks and implementing a bike "dismount zone” on the Oval.
Crandall said the task force's recommendations provide “nothing meaningful to address the issue” of safety on campus. He said more work is necessary to make sure an accident like Daniel Hughes’ doesn’t happen to anyone else, and that the university needs to understand the seriousness of his condition and take more precautionary safety measures in the future.