Ohio Supreme Court Approves Pain and Suffering Cap

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Cap on Damages Lives in Ohio

The Ohio Supreme Court has concluded that Ohio’s statutory caps on damage awards in personal-injury lawsuits are constitutional in a 5-2 decision today.

Like most states with caps, the cap applies to pain and suffering damages and other intangible injuries. The Ohio cap is particularly restrictive: $350,000 unless the injured person lost a limb or bodily organ. Ohio also has a punitive damages rule that restricts punitive damages to twice the amount of damages awarded as the judge or jury awards in compensation for the plaintiff’s injuries, minus any reductions as a result of the cap on pain and suffering damage. (Actually, the formula is a little more complicated than that but this is the gist of it.)

In this case, the plaintiff filed a product liability case against Johnson & Johnson claiming she suffered blood clots as a result of having used the Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch, a hormonal birth-control patch.   [Editor’s note: we are seeing the same thing in 2013 with NuvaRing).

Two justices dissented. Justices Paul E. Pfeifer wrote that, “Today is a day of fulfilled expectations for insurance companies and manufacturers of defective, dangerous or toxic products that cause injury to someone in Ohio… But this is a sad day for our Constitution and this court. And this is a tragic day for Ohioans, who no longer have any assurance that their Constitution protects the rights they cherish.”  Well said.

Interesting, Justice Pfeifer also noted that in deciding to cap damages, the Ohio legislature relied on studies which were not “peer-reviewed” or “published in a scholarly journal.” While this might not be a reason to ignore the legislative intent, because presumably the legislature can decide what they decide for any reason they want, it does underscore the faulty data that insurance companies and big business uses to rig or construe the data in such a way to create a crisis when one does not exist.