Teen's tragic van death: Is anyone liable?

MADISONVILLE, OH (FOX19) - As the city and Hamilton County Prosecutor continue to investigate the death of Kyle Plush, FOX19 NOW is taking a closer look at who could be liable and what charges may come.

Police say the 16-year-old was trapped in his family's van for nearly six hours Tuesday in a parking lot near Seven Hills School. Plush placed two 911 calls, but officers who responded to the scene were unable to locate him.

"It almost makes you want to cry listening to those 911 calls. That young man did everything possible to do, to get authorities to come help him so I think that system the 911 call center system they do have to take a look at that," said FOX 19 NOW legal analyst, Mike Allen.

That investigation is underway, but Allen says proving criminal liability might not be easy.

"If a public servant has a duty to do certain things and that public servant fails in that duty they could potentially be liable for dereliction of duty," Allen said.

It would be a second-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail. Allen says it's rare for a city employee to be charged with it.

He says if the city is found to be liable it could be immune from civil suits escaping financial responsibility.

"The doctrine of sovereign immunity prevents people in situations like this in many cases from recovering. There are a lot of people who think this is unfair. I am one of them," said Allen.

The 2004 Honda Odyssey that Plush was trapped in was not involved in any recalls. However, Allen says Plush's parents could possibly pursue a products liability action against the maker of the vehicle.

"Apparently that's the first time reported that this has happened. An automobile manufacturer is liable if it is an unsound design," said Allen.

Any day now, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters will announce if criminal charges will be filed in this case.

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