SEOEMS mediation won’t take place

Published 9:03 am Friday, February 8, 2013

Prosecutor seeks dismissal of Athens, Jackson lawsuits


Mediation scheduled for today over lawsuits focusing on the now defunct Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services has been indefinitely postponed.

“We are not close enough for mediation,” Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson said. “We can’t agree. We haven’t gotten to the point of knowing who is owed what. Lawrence County is owed a substantial amount of money from SEOEMS. It appears it is going to require litigation to determine each county’s position.”

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The mediation session was mandated by the Fourth District Court of Appeals following the filing of a lawsuit by Athens and Jackson counties and a subsequent lawsuit by Lawrence against Athens, Jackson and SEOEMS. It would have been the second such session since the court of appeals ordered mediation.

For decades the three counties operated SEOEMS, disbanding it in December 2010 when Athens and Jackson pulled out. That forced Lawrence County to start its own emergency medical service.

Local officials contend state audit of SEOEMS showed that the agency owed Lawrence County more than $300,000. The county commissioners tried various means to gain reimbursement with no success.

In March 2012 Athens and Jackson county commissioners filed a suit against Lawrence claiming that county owed a share of the SEOEMS dissolution costs. Lawrence County countered that the suit filed in the court of appeals was filed the wrong court and that Athens and Jackson do not have a valid claim. Lawrence wants the lawsuit dismissed and that was the issue that was to be the focus of the mandated mediation session.

In May the Lawrence County Commissioners filed its own suit in common pleas court seeking more than $1 million in damages over what it alleges is the failure to reimburse the county for receipts paid over expenditures.

Anderson said he now intends to ask the court of appeals to rule on his motion to dismiss the lawsuit of Athens and Jackson.

“We believe the court of appeals is not the jurisdiction,” Anderson said.

He must have the ruling on his motion before Lawrence County can proceed with its lawsuit.

“Lawrence County’s suit is stayed until the court of appeals renders a decision to dismiss,” the prosecutor said.

Anderson anticipates a ruling on his motion in the next 60 to 90 days.