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Guy Thomas suit settled

IRONTON — A lawsuit brought against the City of Ironton by the family of the man who was dragged beneath a police care has been officially settled.

An application to approve the settlement was filed Feb. 3 with the Lawrence County Probate Court. An agreement was made in principle but wasn’t official until the judge approved the terms.

Guy Thomas’ family will receive $250,000, which will be paid by the City of Ironton’s insurance company.

Juan Thomas and LouVerne Miller, brother and aunt of Thomas, filed the wrongful death suit June 2, 2009, in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

The suit accused Ironton Police Officer Richard Fouts of striking Thomas with his cruiser, dragging him a half-mile in the snow.

“Obviously this was a terrible accident,” Mayor Rich Blankenship said. “Our insurance company and the city felt this is the best way to handle this.”

The two parties came to an agreement Dec. 17.

Blankenship described the mediation with Thomas’s family as a “gruelling” and difficult day.

“I’m glad that this is in the past and we can move on,” he said.

Following an autopsy by the Franklin County Coroner’s Office, no determination was made as to the cause of death or whether Thomas was alive when the police cruiser contacted him in March 2008.

The autopsy suggested that traumatic asphyxia, a possible seizure, an elevated ethanol level and possible hypothermia contributed to the death.

However, a statement written in support of the settlement claims that Thomas was alive at the moment of impact with the cruiser.

Dr. Mark Flomenbaum, a pathologist hired by the family, stated that it was virtually impossible for hypothermia to have been the cause of death based on the time that Thomas could have been down in the street.

It was Flomenbaum’s opinion that Thomas died of a seizure and alcohol was not the cause.

“I believe with a reasonable degree of medical and scientific certainty that Mr. Thomas was still alive at the moment of impact with the car,” the statement quotes Flomembaum as saying.

A private investigator hired by Miller determined that Fouts had scraped a small hole in the ice on his windshield.

Besides the hole, the windshield was covered in ice when the car struck Thomas, who was already in the street, according to the statement.

Fouts later resigned from the department.

Investigations by both the police department and private investigations indicated that Thomas did not suffer conscious pain prior to his death.

Calls to Thomas’ family and their lawyer for comment were not returned.