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Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Damages Law

  Breaking Legal News  -   POSTED: 2007/12/29 19:59

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld a state law Thursday that limits how much a person injured by a defective product can collect in pain-and-suffering damages, reversing its stance on a closely watched issue. Attorneys representing injured people and companies that support the concept of caps have followed the lawsuit filed by Melisa Arbino, a Cincinnati property manager, over the Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch made by New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson. She contended the product caused her permanent physical damage and threatened her ability to have children, and her lawyer argued that limits on damages were unconstitutional.

The majority opinion in the 5-2 ruling, written by Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, said the Ohio law revised did not violate the constitutional rights of injured parties to trial by jury, to a remedy for their injuries or to due process and equal protection.

"The decision in this case affirms the General Assembly's efforts over the last several decades to enact meaningful tort reforms," Moyer wrote.

In one of its challenged provisions, the law caps awards at $250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages, whichever is greater, up to an absolute limit of $350,000. The exception is when a plaintiff suffers permanent disability or loss of a limb or bodily organ system.

In another, the law prohibits awards for punitive damages exceeding two times the amount of the compensatory damages awarded the same defendant.

The court threw out a similar law in 1999 in a decision that prompted businesses to criticize Democratic justices who voted against the legislation. Since then, the court has become an all-Republican bench. In the 1999 vote, two Republicans joined the court's two Democrats in striking down the law, which was revised in 2004.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business Legal Foundation had joined in urging the court to uphold the law.

Groups urging the court to overturn it included the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Ohio Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.


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