HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Friday, December 10, 2004

Ohio Legislators Pass New Tort Reform

Early Thursday morning, the Ohio General Assembly passed tort reform legislation that will place caps on pain-and-suffering damages and punitive awards.  Governor Bob Taft commended the passage of the bill and will sign it.  This bill is the Ohio's third attempt to pass tort reform.  The two prior bills have been declared unconstitutional and many attorneys have stated that this new bill may suffer many of the same defects as those earlier enactments.  As The Cincinnati Enquirer reports,

"The bill, for instance, puts caps on noneconomic "pain-and-suffering" damage awards in cases where injuries are not considered catastrophic.

But caps on awards "have been held to be unconstitutional at least twice" by the Ohio Supreme Court, said Peter Weinberger, a Cleveland plaintiff's attorney and chairman of the legislative committee of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, which lobbied against the bill."

It will be interesting to follow the fate of this bill.  Ohio's Supreme Court, which is elected, has recently changed so it is difficult to predict how the new court will rule on the caps constitutionality issue.

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All of the information I've read about tort reform has conveniently left out one factor - how the victim would suffer.

It is no secret that attorneys, expert witnesses, and fees take an inordinate amount of any settlement. Why is no mention made of subrogation? A victim who receives an award will of necessity have to repay the insurance company that covered medical expenses, thus further reducing any award amount.

Also, from my own experieince, I can tell you another, darker, side is that if you cannot deliver a big award to an attorney, he/she will not take your case. It has nothing to do with merit, it has to do with economics. Thousands of people are denied the opportunity to be heard because of this.

True reform would provide an opportunity for all injured people to be heard. Any caps should be on an attorney's fees.

Posted by: Janet Kearns | Dec 30, 2004 5:16:56 PM

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