Is a Claim Against a County Department In Effect a Claim Against the County Itself ?
In Wilson v. Stark Cty. Dept. of Human Serv. (1994), 70 Ohio St. 3d 450, 639 N.E.2d 105, the Ohio Supreme Court stated that "a claim against a county department is, in effect, a claim against the county itself."
Therefore; the claim against the city police department is indistinguishable from the claim against the city itself in terms of potential liability.
R.C. 2744.02(A)(1) provides political subdivisions with sovereign immunity when performing governmental functions:
For the purposes of this chapter, the functions of political subdivisions are hereby classified as governmental functions and proprietary functions.
Except as provided in division (B) of this section, a political subdivision is not liable in damages in a civil action for injury, death, or loss to persons or property allegedly caused by an act or omission of the political subdivision or an employee of the political subdivision in connection with a government or proprietary function.
R.C. 2744.01(C)(2) provides that a "governmental function" includes, but is not limited to:
(a) the provision or nonprovision of police, fire, emergency medical, ambulance, and rescue services or protection;
(i) the enforcement of nonperformance of any law;
R.C. 2744.02(A)(1) "creates a broad immunity, subject to enumerated exceptions." Wilson, 70 Ohio St. 3d at 450.
One of the exceptions, R.C. 2744.02(B)(2), establishes potential liability of political subdivisions for injuries caused by negligent acts performed by employees with respect to proprietary functions.
The Ohio Supreme Court held in Wilson that there is "no such general exception for governmental functions." Id. at 452.
It is well established that the operation of a police department is a governmental function. See McCloud v. Nimmer (1991), 72 Ohio App. 3d 533, 595 N.E.2d 492.