A partial settlement has been reached in federal lawsuits filed by a Buffalo Township couple whose flowering hibiscus plants were mistaken for marijuana last fall.
Edward Cramer and his wife, Audrey, both in their 60s, sued township police and a Nationwide Insurance agent. The couple allege they were handcuffed and forced to sit in the back of a township police car for hours while police searched their house and property for marijuana in October.
No marijuana was found and the couple was released without being charged.
Later that month, Nationwide sent the Cramers a policy notification claiming marijuana had been found growing on the property and, if the couple failed to remove the plants, Nationwide would cancel their insurance.
The Cramers are alleging use of excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.
According to federal court documents, the Cramers voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit against Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and its agent, Jonathan Yeamans, who had been contacted by the couple to file a claim involving storm damage.
Police say, after visiting the Cramers’ property, Yeamans called them to report marijuana plants growing there. The plants he saw were flowering hibiscus, which has leaves that resemble those of marijuana plants.
The couple initially filed a lawsuit in Butler County Court, but the case was moved to federal court.
Cramer attorney Alexander H. Lindsay, Jr. said the couple and Nationwide entered into a confidential settlement.
“Nationwide is pleased to have resolved the matter without further litigation,” said Eric Hardgrove, Nationwide spokesman.
Both sides agreed not to discuss the agreement further, Lindsay said.
“This is a partial settlement. The case against Buffalo Township police is going forward,” Lindsay said.