State briefs

Roads will be crowded over weekend

COLUMBUS — Ohio motorists can expect to have plenty of company on the roads this Labor Day weekend.

The AAA Auto Club says 1.5 million Ohio residents are expected to be among the 35.3 million people in the U.S. taking trips of at least 50 miles from home this weekend. That’s the highest number of projected travelers during the holiday weekend since 2008.

Cheap gas helps. Gas prices have stabilized since a mid-August increase to around $3 a gallon because of refinery problems in Indiana.

Last year, the average price for a gallon of regular gas in Ohio was $3.49 during Labor Day weekend, according to AAA. As of Friday, it was $2.24.

The national average price of gasoline this Labor Day weekend will be its lowest at this time of year since 2004, a result of low oil prices and a quiet hurricane season that has allowed refineries to churn out gasoline and diesel.

The national average price of gasoline fell to $2.42 Friday. U.S. consumers should save more than $1 billion on gasoline over the holiday weekend compared to 2014, with many drivers saving about $15 to $25 on every trip to the gas station, according to AAA.

Nationally, the majority of Labor Day weekend travelers — 30.4 million — are expected to be driving to their final destination. More than 2.6 million will be traveling by air, the highest volume of Labor Day air travel since 2007. Nearly 2.64 million travelers will opt for other modes of transportation like train, bus or boat.

U.S. national parks, which have already seen a surge in visitors so far this year, are expected to be crowded over the Labor Day weekend.

Lost body, wrong corpse at viewing leads to lawsuit

COLUMBUS — A family who says their deceased relative’s body was misplaced and the wrong corpse displayed for a private viewing has sued a funeral company in Ohio.

The lawsuit filed recently in Franklin County Common Pleas Court by members of Nivina Cargill’s family was filed against Smoot Funeral Services, which works out of Edwards Funeral Home in Columbus. It seeks more than $25,000 in both compensatory and punitive damages.

A message left Friday at Smoot offices wasn’t immediately returned.

The lawsuit says Cargill’s family arrived at the funeral home July 1 to find that Cargill’s body had been misplaced and another body dressed in her clothes had been substituted.

Family members have “lost sleep and suffered nightmares as a result of the defendants’ conduct,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that Smoot’s funeral service director, Monique Smoot, tried to persuade the family that the corpse in the casket was Cargill’s and didn’t acknowledge the mistake until she eventually checked the name tag on the corpse.

Monique Smoot, who is also named as a defendant, didn’t immediately return a call Friday. A message also was left at Edwards Funeral Service Inc., which is also named as a defendant.

Cargill’s sister, Pamela Merritt, said the family waited five hours for staff to find Cargill’s body and prepare it, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

The lawsuit says the 52-year-old Cargill died June 21 of cardiac arrest.

Cargill’s makeup was applied in a sloppy and haphazard manner, the lawsuit also states.

As a result of the defendants’ “negligent, reckless, wanton, willful and/or intentional conduct,” the family will continue to suffer “serious and irreparable emotional and psychological distress,” according to the lawsuit.

Referred records don’t satisfy critics in charter flap

COLUMBUS — Democrats in the Ohio Legislature continue to call for an independent investigation of altered charter-school sponsor evaluations a day after the state Education Department provided thousands of records to journalists and state authorities.

State Rep. Teresa Fedor, of Toledo, said the actions of ousted School Choice Director David Hansen require a “deep dive” by someone unassociated with the administration of Republican Gov. John Kasich.

Documents released Thursday gave no indication that Kasich or Superintendent Richard Ross, a member of his Cabinet, directed Hansen to alter the evaluations so sponsors would be rated more favorably. A spokeswoman says the department has put internal safeguards in place and provided the records to State Auditor Dave Yost and Inspector General Randall Meyer.

Fedor says both are Republicans and neither is fully independent.

Judge lets Democrats join lawsuit over voting changes

COLUMBUS — A federal judge has granted a request to let Ohio Democrats join a lawsuit filed over voting rules in the swing state.

The Ohio Organizing Collaborative brought the case in May. But its attorneys sought to withdraw, saying the nonprofit lacks the “institutional capability” to remain as plaintiff.

Judge Michael Watson granted the organization’s request Wednesday to substitute in as plaintiffs the state’s Democratic Party and Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH’-guh) and Montgomery county parties.

The suit alleges that Ohio’s voting rules disproportionately burden Democratic-leaning voters. The state’s Republican elections chief contends the process is fair and calls the lawsuit politically motivated.

Watson declined the plaintiff’s request to drop certain claims in the lawsuit that overlap with another case, citing, among other reasons, that it could delay a resolution of the issues.