The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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June 13, 2013

Commissioners increasing Ashtabula County’s liability coverage by $4 million

JEFFERSON — Ashtabula County commissioners agreed Tuesday to add another $4 million in coverage to the county’s umbrella insurance policy.

The policy, with the County Risk Sharing Authority (CORSA) under the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, is the county’s liability policy and protects it in the event of a lawsuit.

Since 1988, the county has had $6 million in coverage. The increase will raise the coverage to $10 million. The additional coverage comes with a price tag of $6,800.

The commissioners debated the increase Tuesday and asked for advice from Ashtabula County Prosecutor Tom Sartini. One of the questions raised was, is $10 million a reasonable amount of coverage for the county?

Sartini said $10 million would probably be plenty.

“It’s all about piece of mind,” he said. “Anybody can sue anybody. The question is: Are you responsible (for the incident prompting the potential lawsuit)?”

Commissioner Dan Claypool said the two potential risk factors that worry him are the Ashtabula County Nursing Home and the Ashtabula County Jail. In the event of an untimely death, for example, Claypool wonders if $6 million would be enough to protect the county in a potential lawsuit.

Commissioner Peggy Carlo asked, as an example, if an event were taking place at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds and there was an accident of some sort, would the county be held responsible because it owns the property?

“Every situation is different,” Sartini said. “You can come up with a lot of scenarios. Any amount could not be enough. You have to be realistic. You can sit here all day and ‘what if.’ $10 million is not an unreasonable amount.”

Sartini said the nursing home, jail and fairgrounds are definitely risk factors for the county.

“You’re buying additional protection for the county,” he said. “The risks are out there no matter what. The question is, do you want to keep rolling the dice at $6 million?”

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