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Ohio County Settles Cornea Suit

July 6, 2000

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Hamilton County and two eye banks have tentatively agreed to pay more than $5 million to settle a lawsuit against the former county coroner for allowing corneas to be taken from about 600 corpses without the permission of next of kin.

Under the proposed settlement, the county would pay $4.95 million and the eye banks $300,000 to 545 plaintiffs, officials said Thursday.

The settlement is subject to approval by the county commission and a federal judge.

Deborah Brotherton of suburban Cincinnati sued in 1989 after discovering from an autopsy report that her husband’s corneas had been taken after his death in 1988. The lawsuit later became a class-action to include other families with similar claims.

Coroner Frank Cleveland’s policy from 1985 through 1991 was to allow corneas to be taken unless expressly denied by the deceased’s next of kin. The county’s lawyers argued that Cleveland was following state law.

But a federal appeals court ruled in 1999 that Cleveland’s policy violated federal law.

Cleveland retired in 1995 after 30 years as coroner.

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