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YOUNGSTOWN Judge drops county from lawsuit in death



Published: Fri, September 21, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The family alleged that police used excessive force.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A judge has cleared Mahoning County officials in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought against them last year in common pleas court.

The suit stems from the November 1998 death of 36-year-old John B. Mihaly of Cooper Road, Lowellville, a former inmate at the county jail.

Mihaly's family filed the suit in November 2000, seeking unspecified damages. The family alleged that deputy sheriffs and Coitsville Township police used excessive force in dealing with Mihaly.

Dismissed from suit: Judge Jack Durkin ruled there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the county, dismissing it from the suit. The township had filed a similar request to be dismissed from the suit, which Judge Durkin denied in August.

Thomas Michaels, an assistant county prosecutor, said he was not surprised at the ruling.

"This was undeniably a tragic death, but it had nothing to do with anything the county officers did," he said.

Mihaly was arrested by Coitsville police in November 1998 for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He was taken to the township police department and then to the county jail, where he was placed in a cell.

Prisoner collapses: The next night, a deputy noticed Mihaly's nose bleeding and saw him collapse. Mihaly complained of a mild headache but no other unusual symptoms.

He was taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center, where he died two days later.

Doctors at the hospital assumed Mihaly was the victim of a beating, but the county coroner's report said he died from brain swelling with herniation and hemorrhaging caused by a skull fracture and blunt force trauma from a fall.

The common pleas lawsuit was the second time Mihaly's family had sued the county and township over the death. The first one was filed in 1999 in federal court and was dismissed in April 2000 by Judge James S. Gwin of U.S. District Court, Akron.

bjackson@vindy.com




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