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WEATHERSFIELD TWP. Hospital visit leads to lawsuit



Published: Wed, January 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The township wants the case to be heard in federal court.

YOUNGSTOWN -- A Weathersfield Township woman who says she had no intention of overdosing after an argument with her boyfriend is suing the Weathersfield police officer who forced her to a hospital and later charged her with resisting arrest.

Tammy L. Rivera, 43, of 10th Street, alleges battery, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, civil rights violations and infliction of emotional distress.

According to the suit, on July 12 Officer Richard T. Stitt was dispatched to her residence. When the officer got there, she told him that she'd had an argument with her boyfriend, who left in her car to go to his Russell Avenue home in Niles.

She said Stitt became "angry, revengeful, rude and/or insolent" when she refused to complete a statement and have her boyfriend arrested. She followed Stitt to her boyfriend's home, then returned to her residence at the officer's request.

About 90 minutes later, Stitt returned to Rivera's in response to a report that she was going to overdose on pills. Rivera told the officer she had no intention of overdosing or otherwise harming herself, the lawsuit states.

She said Stitt advised her that she couldn't stay home alone, so she called her mother to pick her up. While Rivera's mother was on the way, Stitt requested that an ambulance take Rivera to the hospital.

Arrest injuries

Rivera, in her lawsuit, said Stitt grabbed her arm and swung her into his cruiser when she questioned the need for an ambulance. She alleges that he handcuffed her and threatened her with arrest if she didn't go to a hospital.

After a brief exam at St. Joseph Health Center, Rivera was released.

Two days later, on July 14, she went to a doctor for injuries she said she suffered from Stitt's throwing her in the cruiser and was advised to file a police report, which she did.

Then, on July 17, she received a court summons charging her with resisting arrest signed by Stitt. Niles Municipal Court dismissed the charge, the lawsuit states.

Rivera's Youngstown lawyer, John N. Zomoida Jr., said in the lawsuit that his client sustained physical injuries, humiliation, injury to feelings, mental suffering and monetary loss. He said the Weathersfield Township Police Department and the township are subject to liability for the Stitt's actions.

North Canton attorney Gregory A. Beck, who represents Weathersfield Township, said in court papers that Stitt denies the allegations. Also, the lawyer said Stitt is shielded by qualified immunity, which protects government officials from civil damages unless they clearly violated laws or constitutional rights.

Township requests federal case

Beck wants the case to be tried in U.S. District Court in Youngstown, not in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court where it was originally filed.

Beck said Tuesday that the lawsuit deals with federal claims centering on the police officer asserting his power to have Rivera seek medical attention. The lawyer said this is the reverse of lawsuits where police were accused of having knowledge that a person was in danger and not doing anything.

Beck acknowledged that it is a bit unusual for a defendant to move a plaintiff's lawsuit to federal court.

Zomoida said Tuesday that venue doesn't make a difference to him or his client -- "the facts are what they are, and the facts aren't going to change because the venue has changed."




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