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June 23, 2006

Ohio Damages Cap Certified to Ohio Supreme Court

Judge David Katz of the United States District Court in Toledo, Ohio, has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to determine the legality of Ohio's cap on noneconomic and punitive damages in civil lawsuits because of its impact on a suit currently before him by plaintiffs against Ortho Evra, alleging that its birth control patch caused serious side effects or death.   Pursuant to its certification rule, Rule 18, section 1 of the Ohio Supreme Court Practice Rules, the supreme court is not obligated to decide the issue, however, and there is no specified time period in the rule for the court to decide whether to accept the certified issue for decision.  The case has raised expectations of a speedy resolution of the damages cap issue.  The Ohio General Assembly has passed two damages caps laws in recent years.  One, applicable to medical malpractice claims, caps noneconomic damages at $1 million in catastrophic cases and $500,000 in less severe cases.  The second law, Ohio Rev. Code Ann.  2315.18 (b)(2), which is the one involved in Judge Katz's case, was adopted by the Assembly in 2004.  It limits jury awards for pain and suffering and other intangible, noneconomic damages in noncatastrophic injury cases in products liability, personal injury, and other civil suits, to $350,000 per person, subject to a $500,000 limit per occurrence.  Although the Ohio Supreme Court has previously held damages caps unconstitutional, a change in the composition of the court has raised expectations that the result will be different if the court reviews the new damages cap.  An interesting aspect of the commentary is the labeling of judges as Democrats or Republicans in speculating on the court's possible resolution of the case.  Commentary in toledoblade.com, by Luke Shockman and Jim Provance.  For a good discussion of the caps issue and a detailed analysis of Ohio law on the issue, see Robert S. Peck, Violaing the Inviolate:  Caps on Damages and the Right to Trial by Jury, 31 U. Dayton L. Rev. 307 (2006). WL

MKS

June 23, 2006 | Permalink

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