Updated Thu, May 1, 2014 4:19 pm
Was an Ohio University student's broken thumb caused by an OU police officer handcuffing her?
The Ohio Court of Claims will be deciding that question, but attorneys for the student and OU are disagreeing over what evidence at a March 31 trial proved. Post-trial briefs were filed last week in the case that Lyndsey Howell of Chillicothe filed against the university.
Howell sued OU in the Ohio Court of Claims seeking in excess of $25,000. The lawsuit claims that officer Eric Hoskinson broke her thumb while handcuffing her during a Jan. 21, 2012 traffic stop at which Howell was arrested on a charge (later reduced) of driving under the influence of alcohol.
In a post-trial brief filed in the Ohio Court of Claims case, Howell's attorney argues that evidence at the March 31 trial showed that Howell was not injured before her arrest, that after she was handcuffed she complained of being injured and that medical evidence showed she had a broken thumb. Howell's attorney, Vincent DePascale, argues that evidence at the trial showed Howell was not intoxicated, but also argues that whether she was intoxicated is irrelevant to the issues of the case.
"What the defense has done is attempt to use smoke and mirrors to distract the court from the real issues," DePascale argues. "The defense has used minor and factually unfounded claims of intoxication on the part of Ms. Howell to attempt to justify the arrest, which justification has nothing to do with whether Ms. Howell was injured during the handcuffing procedure."
Ohio Assistant Attorney General Christopher Conomy, representing OU, argues in his post-trial brief that Howell failed to prove Hoskinson caused the injury.
"...Her state of intoxication — an she was most certainly more intoxicated than any of her multiple stories would admit — makes it even more likely both that she could have injured herself earlier and not have been aware of it until later," Conomy argues. "...The university cannot explain her injury because the university does not know how it occurred. The problem for Ms. Howell in this case is that she cannot explain it either."
Howell was charged in Athens County Municipal Court with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence and driving without headlights, but was fined on a reduced charge of reckless operation, with the headlights charge being dismissed, municipal court records show.