The mother of a Plain Township teen who drowned two years ago has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the man who provided the teen with alcohol before her death.
Julie Smith, the mother of Brandi Morgan, is seeking $5 million in punitive damages in the lawsuit filed this week in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
Smith is suing Charles Vlad, 57, of North Canton, who was sentenced to 60 days in jail in March 2016 after pleading guilty to buying alcohol for Morgan, who was 19 and under the legal drinking age.
Morgan drowned April 20, 2015, in a pond on Greensburg Road in Green. Vlad was with her at the time and tried to rescue her. She was submerged for about an hour, authorities said.
An autopsy found Morganís death was accidental. The cause of death listed hypothermia and ethyl alcohol intoxication as contributing factors. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.23, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 for adults in Ohio.
A surveillance video showed Vlad buying a bottle of wine for Morgan the day before her drowning. Morgan later posted a picture of the bottle on social media.
Morgan was about a month away from graduating from North Canton Hoover High School when she died. Vlad said during his sentencing in Barberton Municipal Court that he was Morganís best friend. He told 911 dispatchers he believed she tried to commit suicide because she was distraught.
Smith said at the sentencing that she blamed Vlad for Morganís death.
Smith said in her lawsuit that she and Morganís other family members suffered ďmental anguish, loss of support, society, companionship, consortium, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel and instruction.Ē She is seeking $25,000 in compensatory damages, $15,000 for burial and funeral expenses, $5 million in punitive damages, and attorney fees.
Vlad, however, hasnít yet paid the fines that were part of his sentence in Barberton Municipal Court. He paid $250 to the court and still owes $739.40. The court has hired a collection agency to recover his outstanding debt, according to court records.
Neither Smith nor her attorney, Louis Gigliotti Jr. of Akron, returned messages seeking comment this week. Vlad also couldnít be reached. The court docket doesnít yet show Vladís attorney in the civil lawsuit.
The lawsuit is assigned to Judge Jill Flagg Lanzinger, who recently was appointed to the Summit County bench after serving in Barberton Municipal Court. Lanzinger didnít handle Vladís criminal case in Barberton. Judge David Fish presided over that case.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter:†@swarsmithabj† and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith.