Wrongful death suit nearly settled

Published 10:55 am Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The City of Ironton has settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought against it by the family of Guy Thomas, the man who was found beneath an Ironton Police car in 2008.

The two sides came to an agreement Dec. 17 but, as of Monday, the agreement had not been approved by the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court and necessary documents had not been filed with the clerk of courts.

Louverne Miller and Juan Thomas, co-administrators of the estate of Guy Thomas, filed the lawsuit June 2 in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

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Guy Thomas’ body was found March 8, 2008, in the parking lot of the Ironton Police Department underneath the cruiser of former police officer Richard Fouts.

The lawsuit accuses Fouts of striking Thomas with his cruiser, dragging him a half-mile in the snow.

Thomas was pronounced dead at the scene. Fouts later resigned.

An autopsy found that Thomas was intoxicated at the time of his death but did not determine if he was dead or alive at the time the police cruiser made contact with his body.

Mayor Rich Blankenship referred questions to the Ken Harris, an attorney who represented the city in the wrongful death suit. He added that both sides were satisfied with the settlement.

“My position is that we’re glad that this is over and closed,” Blankenship said.

Harris declined to disclose the amount for which the case was settled but said it was resolved at a rate that is consistent with similar wrongful death cases.

Funds for the settlement will come from the city’s insurance company, not from the city’s general fund, Blankenship said.

A mediator and both sides of the lawsuit spent seven to eight hours talking about the case before an agreement was reached, Harris said.

“I think it was good for all the parties to put this matter behind them,” Harris said. “Everyone was saddened by the event.”

William Gustavson, an attorney representing the Thomas family, said that mediation was very difficult and that no amount of money will replace Guy Thomas.

“I think that it was obviously a very stressful and upsetting situation for the family so the settlement negotiations were very difficult,” he said. “I can tell you that the City of Ironton and the public officials there showed great concern and respect for the family and because of that concern and respect, the family was able to enter into this agreement.”

Harris said both sides of the suit behaved in a fair manner.

“I think everyone should be proud of the way they conducted themselves,” he said.

Attempts to contact the Thomas family for comment were unsuccessful.