Ranells v. City of Cleveland

41 Ohio St.2d 1, 321 N.E.2d 885 (1975)

Richard and Sandra Ranells died after being exposed to hazardous chlorine gas emitted from a city operated water filtration plant across the street from the Ranells’ home. The Ranells sued the City of Cleveland for negligently and recklessly operating the plant.

The jury returned an award in the amount of $609,000 for Ranells to compensate them for wrongful death, conscious pain and suffering, and hospital and funeral expenses. The verdict also included an award of punitive damages in the amount of $750,000.

The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the compensatory damages award, but vacated the punitive damage award despite evidence of “a continuing hardheartedness toward the residents of the neighborhood surrounding the Baldwin Filtration Plant. Time and again city officials were put on notice that a catastrophe was imminent, but those warnings were ignored to the peril of the citizens of Cleveland.”

To this day, punitive damages are not recoverable against a political subdivision.