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Widener Univ. School of Law

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Caps

The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the state's 2005 caps on noneconomic damages and limitations punitive damages.  The opinion, which was decided 5-2, is here [PDF].

The decision came from a birth control patch blood clot suit against Johnson & Johnson that had been consolidated in a federal MDL; the judge overseeing that MDL certified four questions regarding the measures in question.  The measures capped non-economic harm at $250,000 or three times economic harm, whichever is larger, but not to exceed $350,000 (with a cap buster provision for major or permanent injuries); additionally, they capped punitives at two times compensatory damages.  The legislation also made collateral source payments admissible, but the court found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge that provision and thus punted.

The majority starts with the notion that it is tough to prove a statute unconstitutional on its face and, unsurprisingly given that starting tone, approves the statute.  The majority does at least hint that an as-applied challenge might be more successful when it concludes:

We appreciate the policy concerns Arbino and her amici have raised.  However, the General Assembly is responsible for weighing those concerns and making policy decisions; we are charged with evaluating the constitutionality of their choices.  Issues such as the wisdom of damage limitations and whether the specific dollar amounts available under them best serve the public interest are not for us to decide.  Faced with a highly deferential facial challenge to these statutes, our review causes us to conclude that the General Assembly has responded to our previous decisions and has created constitutionally permissible limitations.

(Emphasis in original.)

--BC 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/tortsprof/2007/12/ohio-supreme-co.html

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