City Wants Motel Owner to Drop Suit

Grove Terrace Motel owner Vince Camastro has until Monday to respond to the city of Wheeling’s motion to dismiss his lawsuit seeking to force the city to pay for damage police officers caused when they broke in a door to apprehend a fugitive.

According to court documents, Wheeling police Officers Will Ward and Thomas Callison broke down a door at the motel, located on National Road in Elm Grove, while attempting to arrest Zach Collins in July 2011 on a felony warrant for allegedly breaking into the Croatian Club in Benwood. The police report, prepared by Callison, states that the door sustained only slight damage, and that Camastro agreed it was minimal. Groves Custom Builders of Moundsville, however, estimated the damage to be worth $1,800, according to a receipt filed with the court.

Camastro is seeking to recoup the $1,800, as well as court costs. He alleges the officers “negligently and/or intentionally forced entry into Room No. 1 by forcefully kicking in the steel frame door instead of breaking the near adjacent window.”

In addition to Ward and Callison, Camastro is blaming Collins for the damage and named him as a defendant in the suit.

Camastro states that Collins, by “wrongfully concealing himself from justice as a fugitive, directly and proximately caused substantial damage” to the door.

Ohio County Magistrate Joe Roxby dismissed the suit in December, and within days, Camastro filed an appeal with the Ohio County Circuit Court.

City Solicitor Rose Humway-Warmuth moved to dismiss the suit earlier this year, saying Camastro’s allegations are baseless. Neither the city, nor Ward nor Callison, can be held responsible for the damage under the Government Tort Immunity Act because the officers were acting within the scope of their duty, she said. Ohio County Circuit Judge David Sims earlier this month warned Camastro that if he does not respond to the city’s motion by the close of business Monday, he may dismiss the case.