by Keith Sanders
On November 17, 2021, the Ohio Court of Claims awarded a state prisoner $185,000 for injuries sustained when he was bitten by a dog on a K-9 unit visiting from a local jail.
Derek Woods, 23, was inside the gym at Trumbull Correctional Institution in Leavittsburg on March 20, 2019, when Trumbull County deputies brought their K-9 team to the prison for a dog-handling program. One of the dogs was playing with its handler outside the gym when it raced inside and chased after Woods. When the dog caught up with him, it bit him in the genitals.
Woods suffered substantial injuries, including urological damage and sexual dysfunction. Aided by attorneys Drew A. Carson and Howard E. Skolnick of the Skolnick Weiser Law Firm LLC in Cleveland, Woods filed a tort claim in the state Court of Claims against Ohio and its Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC). Citing Ohio Revised Code § 955.28, he claimed that Defendants were liable as owners of the dog for the injuries it inflicted on him.
Magistrate Anderson Renick dismissed the State of Ohio as a defendant. But he allowed claims to proceed against DRC. During trial, Woods argued that because he did not provoke the dog, DRC was strictly liable for its actions. Ultimately, DRC conceded liability, and the case proceeded to a bench trial to determine damages.
Woods reported that scar tissue from the injury continued to cause pain whenever he achieved an erection. DRC countered that guards had witnessed him engaging in sexually suggestive flirtation with his girlfriend during her visits with the prisoner, so how much pain was he really suffering? To which the prisoner replied that he wasn’t capable of anything more intimate than flirtation during a visit in a state prison, so they hadn’t seen the pain an erection would cause.
Upon the trial’s conclusion, but before Magistrate Renick could issue a ruling, the state negotiated a settlement. Under its terms, DRC agreed to resolve Woods’ claims with the payment, including fees and costs for his attorney, who by that time was Barton R. Keyes of Cooper & Elliott LLC in Columbus. See: Woods v. State, 2021 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 10935.
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