Thursday, December 4, 2003

Suit can proceed in 1994 fatality

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE - Nearly 10 years after Connie Black died in an alcohol-related crash, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that her estate can sue the people it blames for allowing the wreck to happen.

"This has been one epic legal battle fought in both state and federal court," said Fort Mitchell attorney Eric Deters, who is representing Black's estate. "In two months we will be at the 10th anniversary of the wreck, and the case has never made it to trial."

The appeals court ruled Black's estate could proceed with a suit in U.S. District Court in Covington against the city of Florence and three police officers. Deters said the estate claims the defendants failed to perform their duty to protect Black.

Boone County chose to settle with Black's estate for $300,000 in September 2002, but Florence pressed ahead in court. Now the city could delay the case further by asking the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear it.

Attorney Hugh Skees, who represents Florence, said that he is "very disappointed and quite surprised at this complex decision."

On Feb. 19, 1994, Black was killed in a car wreck shortly after police officers allegedly removed her from an acquaintance's car and placed her in the truck of her boyfriend, Steve Kritis.

Both Black and Kritis had been drinking heavily, according to court records, and after they argued at a bar, Black left with the acquaintance, Susan Stemler. Kritis then began to chase the women on the streets of Florence before police stopped the car and truck, court records show.

Stemler was arrested, accused of driving drunk. No police officer ever checked Kritis for intoxication, according to court records.

Kritis pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and wanton endangerment and served five years.


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