December 28, 2007
Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Statutory Caps on Punitive and Compensatory Damages Against Constitutional Attack
In Arbino v. Johnson, Slip Opinion No. 2007-Ohio-6948 (December 27, 2007), the Ohio Supreme Court upheld caps on damages from 2005 Ohio tort reform legislation in a 5-2 opinion. Chief Justice Moyer wrote for the court. Justice O'Donnell dissented in part and Justice Pfeifer issued a strongly worded dissent. The case was a products liability action initiated against Johnson & Johnson, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C., alleging that she suffered blood clots and other serious medical side effects from using the Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch, a hormonal birth-control medication that Johnson & Johnson created. The plaintiff filed suit in S.D. of Ohio. Her complaint challenged the constitutionality of four tort-reform statutes implemented on April 7, 2005 in Ohio. The plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on the challenges and the State of Ohio intervened. While the motion was pending, the federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the case with other claims relating to the Ortho Evra patch before Judge David A. Katz in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Judge Katz certified four questions concerning the constitutionality of the statutes to the Ohio Supreme Court, three of which were accepted by that court. The first concerned the constitutionality of Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2315.18, which limits noneconomic damages to the greater of (1) $250,000 or (2) three times the economic damages up to a maximum of $350,000, or $500,000 per single occurrence. The statutory limits are inapplicable if the plaintiff suffered "[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 second was a challenge to Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2315.20, which provides for the admission of collateral source evidence in tort actions. The third was a challenge to Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2315.21, the statutory cap limiting punitive damages to two times the amount of compensatory damages awarded a plaintiff per defendant. The plaintiff argued that the statutes violated various provisions of the Ohio Constitution, including her right to jury trial, due process, a remedy, an open court, and her right to equal protection. The supreme court held that the statutory caps on compensatory and punitive damages did not violate the Ohio Constitution. The court did not rule on the challenge to the collateral source statute because the plaintiff lacked standing to challenge that provision.
December 28, 2007 | Permalink
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Statutory Caps on Punitive and Compensatory Damages Against Constitutional Attack: