OU Contests Recommendation In Broken-Thumb Case

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Ohio University is contesting a magistrate's recommendation that $22,554 be awarded to a student who claimed her thumb was broken when an OU police officer handcuffed her.

On Monday, the university filed papers objecting to the recommendation made by Magistrate Holly True Shaver in the Ohio Court of Claims. Shaver's recommendation, which has not yet been adopted by the court, is that Lyndsey Howell be awarded $2,529 for out-of-pocket medical expenses, $20,000 for pain and suffering and a $25 filing fee. A trial in the case was held March 31.

Howell was arrested in 2012 by Lt. Eric Hoskinson on suspicion of driving under the influence. In her lawsuit, she claims that Hoskinson broke her thumb while handcuffing her.

"The court finds that (Howell) was credible when she testified that she felt a 'pop' in her left thumb when Lt. Hoskinson grabbed her figures during the handcuffing procedure," Shaver wrote in her recommendation. "The court further finds that (Howell's) testimony regarding her injury, and the fact that she immediately complained of pain is more credible that Lt. Hoskinson's testimony."
Hoskinson denied causing the injury.

Shaver wrote that it is "more probable than not" that Hoskinson's pulling of Howell's fingers downward behind her back while placing handcuffs on her resulted in the injury. Shaver noted that Howell told medical personnel that she had been injured while being handcuff, and that Hoskinson had asked Howell before giving her sobriety tests (and before the cuffing) if she was injured and she replied she was not.

In its objection to Shaver's recommendation, the university argues that the evidence does not support her conclusions and that she incorrectly applied the law.

According to OU, the evidence in the case established that "such minor, non-displaced fractures" can often occur without the injured person being aware of it at the time.

"…Neither the evidence nor the magistrate's findings actually include anything about what it is the arresting office was supposed to have done wrong," Assistant Attorney General Christopher Conomy wrote in Monday's filing. "The only evidence to this point is that (Howell) felt pain at the time, but the uncontroverted evidence in this case clearly establishes that people often experience injuries without being aware at the time, only to feel pain later."

Conomy argues that because the injury exists is not proof of negligence.

"The fact that she felt pain during the cuffing is proof that she was injured at some point, but not proof that Lt. Hoskinson did something improper," Conomy wrote.