County not at fault in airport lawsuit, judge rules

Published 10:15 am Monday, August 6, 2012


CHESAPEAKE — A federal judge’s ruling has ended a lawsuit by a Huntington, W.Va., woman against the Lawrence County Commissioners.

On July 24, District Judge Sandra S. Beckwith of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, granted the county’s motion for a summary judgment in the case of Ashley Washburn.

Email newsletter signup

Washburn filed the lawsuit in July 2010 after she was severely injured in an accident at the Lawrence County Airpark two years earlier.

On July 20, 2008, Washburn was putting away tents and other equipment that had been used that day during parachuting activities that she had participated in.

During a storm that day a door was blown off a hangar at the airport and hit her in the face. The hangar was owned by the county and leased to Cleo Watson.

Washburn sued the county commissioners and Attitude Aviation, the company then managing the airport.

According to the suit, “the defendants … negligently and carelessly owned and maintained, controlled, supervised and regulated the Lawrence County Airport such that they permitted negligent installation, construction and replacement of the hangar on the premises which created dangerous conditions of the public property at the airport.”

However, in her ruling Beckwith said that the county was not liable to Washburn.

“Plaintiff is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law that either of the defendants owed her a duty of ordinary care or that either of the defendants breached that duty,” the ruling states.

“The county did not owe plaintiff a duty of ordinary care because the county did not have possession or control of Watson’s hangar and because plaintiff was a licensee on the premises at the time of the incident. Attitude Aviation’s motion for summary judgment against plaintiff is granted for the same reasons stated with respect to Lawrence County.”

County Auditor Jason Stephens said he was pleased with the ruling. Stephens was county commission president at the time of the incident.

“I think it is good news for the county,” he said. “It was an unfortunate accident. At the same time I am glad to see that it is no fault of the county and pleased that the court saw it that way.”