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Court reverses ruling



Published: Sat, September 28, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



A judge overturned the jury's $2 million award in 2000 and ruled for the city.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A $2 million on-again, off-again jury verdict against the city is on once more.

The 7th District Court of Appeals this week reversed a judge's ruling that set aside the $2 million judgment.

The city's next step could be appealing the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.

City Law Director John McNally IV said he hadn't seen the decision, but he called the reversal disappointing.

Financial trouble

If it stands, a $2 million judgment could devastate city finances. The city already is facing a 2002 deficit of about $2 million. Sixty workers are on layoff, and the city paid more than 60 others a $10,000 incentive to leave the payroll.

A half-percent income tax increase is on the November ballot. That would bring back at least the 15 firefighters and 11 police officers on layoff.

Cutting $2 million in costs to pay the judgment translates into about 50 job cuts.

Allied Erecting & amp; Dismantling Co. of Poland Avenue won the $2 million verdict in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in April 2000. Jurors deliberated just more than an hour before returning the verdict after a weeklong trial before visiting Judge Mary Cacioppo.

The city asked the judge to set aside the verdict or grant a new trial. The city cited several "irregularities and legal issues" that arose during the trial.

The attorneys who handled the case for Allied and the city could not be reached to comment.

In October 2000, the judge granted the city a "judgment not withstanding the verdict," citing technical grounds. That overturned the jury's award. Allied appealed.

The three appeals judges were unanimous. Judge Cacioppo erred in granting the city the judgment, the appeals court said.

Reason for lawsuit

At issue was ownership of gravel along the bed of the former Pittsburgh & amp; Lake Erie Railroad.

Allied bought the portion of the railroad that bisected the company's property when the P & amp;LE went out of business in 1992. Allied agreed to buy the rails, ties and gravel from the rail bed so the city could buy only the land, the lawsuit said.

When Allied began taking gravel from the rail bed, city officials ordered the company to stop. The city threatened legal action if gravel removal continued, according to the lawsuit.

Allied sued the city in 1995.

The verdict represents the replacement value of the salvageable gravel.




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