Product Liability Damages Cap Upheld in Ohio

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The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of noneconomic and punitive damages limits that may be awarded to personal injury plaintiffs

The Court answered certified questions from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in a product liability lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company. The plaintiff sought damages for medical problems alleged to have been caused the defendant’s birth control patch. The federal court lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of the damages caps on grounds that the tort reform measures deny plaintiffs to a trial by jury, to a remedy for injuries, due process of law, and equal protection of law. The federal court certified these state law questions to the Ohio Supreme Court. Each challenge was rejected.

In upholding the noneconomic damages cap, the Court noted that the statute does not apply to certain tort actions such as those in the Court of Claims, against political subdivisions, or actions for wrongful death, medical or dental malpractice, or breach of contract. In addition, the law exempts from the caps plaintiffs who suffer “[p]ermanent and substantial physical deformity, loss of use of a limb, or loss of a bodily organ system,” or “[p]ermanent physical functional injury that permanently prevents the injured person from being able to independently care for self and perform life-sustaining activities.” The Court also reasoned that since other state laws authorize an increase in actual damages awarded by a jury, such as violations of the Consumer Sales Practices Act or the corrupt activities statute, a statute requiring a decrease “cannot logically violate” the right to a trial by jury.

The Ohio tort reform statute caps noneconomic damages at the greater of $250,000 or three times the amount of “economic damages” awarded, up to an absolute maximum of $350,000. Punitive damages are limited to two times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to the plaintiff.

Disclaimer: This Litigation and Dispute Resolution Law Alert is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as or provide legal advice relating to a particular matter. Should you have specific questions regarding an international business or legal matter, please contact Jon P. Yormick, Managing Attorney or Nicholas A. Panagopoulos, III, Associate, Yormick & Associates, Co., L.P.A., t: +1.216.928.3474, f: +1.216.566.0857, e-mail: [email protected] or[email protected]

 

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