NEW LEXINGTON – The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has asked a Perry County judge to let the agency switch sides in a personal injury lawsuit, which was filed against Pike Township in July by a commercial truck driver injured in a 2019 road accident.

The Bureau has asked that, rather than continuing as a defendant in the case, it be allowed to join plaintiff Kamryn Hamilton in suing the Pike Township trustees and a township tractor driver whose alleged negligence Hamilton blames for his accident and resultant injuries.

In his lawsuit in Perry County Common Pleas Court, Hamilton also named as a defendant the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, from which he has been receiving benefits related to his accident. He did this in case the state agency claimed to be subrogated to his claims against the township – meaning it would be entitled to substitute for him in a money settlement. Hamilton’s lawsuit asked that the Bureau either present and prove such a subrogation claim, or be barred from asserting one.

On Aug. 19 the Bureau filed its own legal complaint against the township and its employee, as well as an answer to Hamilton’s suit, and a motion to “re-align” the parties in the suit, moving the agency from the defendants’ to the plaintiffs’ corner.

The Bureau states in its legal complaint that it has paid out close to $5,000 for medical benefits for Hamilton, and over $38,000 in compensation, and expects to pay out nearly $19,000 more on his claim. It says that under Ohio law it is entitled to be reimbursed for these outlays from any settlement Hamilton might win from the township, and asks for judgment in the amount of $62,333.93, as well as any additional amount it pays out in medical and compensation benefits to Hamilton, plus court costs.

In its realignment motion the Bureau argues that because it and Hamilton have similar rather than opposing interests in the matter, “realignment of the parties is appropriate.”

The township filed its answer to Hamilton’s lawsuit on Aug. 10. In it, the township denies many of the key allegations in the suit, including the claim that its tractor driver was negligent; that this negligence was the cause of Hamilton’s being injured; that the township trustees are legally liable for their tractor driver’s negligence under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior (employer responsible for employee’s actions); and that the trustees themselves were negligent.

They also suggest they may enjoy either absolute or qualified immunity from liability, or be protected by either absolute or qualified privilege.

In Hamilton’s lawsuit, he said that on July 22, 2019, he was driving a commercial truck for his employer, an Athens-based transport company, and traveling south on Pike Township Road 223. As went around a left-hand curve, the lawsuit says, he was confronted with a township tractor heading the other way, driven by township employee Phillip Allen. The tractor was pulling a wide drag device, which according to the complaint blocked Hamilton’s lane.

To try to avoid hitting the tractor and its drag equipment, Hamilton claims, he put on the brake and moved as far right as he could. The right edge of the roadway allegedly began to give way, causing Hamilton’s truck to leave the roadway, slide down an embankment, and roll over into a ravine.

The suit says Allen’s negligence consisted of blocking the roadway and failing to post warning signs or flaggers to alert motorists to the fact that roadwork was underway ahead around a blind curve.

Hamilton says he suffered serious injuries in the accident that have caused him to run up medical expenses, and that he expects to continue to have medical bills related to these injuries. They have also caused him to lose wages and employment benefits, he says, and inflicted “a permanent impairment of his earning capacity.”

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