In his first major case while moonlighting for Stan Chesley’s law firm, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters suffered a crushing defeat earlier this month when a jury rejected a product liability claim seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages. As a result, Deters has scuttled his plans to eventually move full-time into the private sector and instead will seek reelection as prosecutor in 2012, say Republican Party sources.
Following a trial that lasted for more than three months, a jury deliberated for two days before deciding that the defendants in the case had zero liability for injuries suffered by Patrick B. McCarthy.
McCarthy was suing Texana Tank Car & Manufacturing Inc. and Sterling Chemicals Inc. for $62 million in compensatory damages for medical expenses and loss of wages, which meant a jury potentially could’ve awarded him up to $186 million in punitive damages — making it possibly the largest trial for damages in Hamilton County’s history.
But the jury ruled the companies weren’t negligent and didn’t award anything to McCarthy, who was represented by Chesley and Deters.
McCarthy was severely injured when a pressurized lid to a tanker containing chemicals burst free and struck him in the face, breaking several bones and causing a brain injury. As a result, he requires extensive medical care and can no longer financially support his wife and two young children.
Sources in the Republican Party and legal circles say the verdict helped Deters decide to run for another four-year term as county prosecutor rather than enter private practice full-time once his current term is over.
Deters has said he joined Chesley’s high-powered law firm so he could reduce his salary as prosecutor and use the extra money to save the jobs of some staffers targeted by county budget cuts. Under Ohio law, Deters’ annual salary of $123,000 as prosecutor can be reduced to $80,000 for as long as he holds a second, private job.
If the well-placed sources are accurate, it wouldn’t be the first time that Deters looked to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office as a refuge from trouble.
Deters was elected as Ohio treasurer in 1998, but left that position when his office was investigated for a campaign contribution scandal that resulted in misdemeanor convictions for two staffers. The probe hurt Deters’ reputation statewide and led him to run as a write-in candidate for old job as county prosecutor in fall 2004.