On August 6, 2008, a unanimous Ohio Supreme Court agreed to decide whether key sections of Ohio's 2005 tort reform package are constitutional. The Justices agreed to answer eight questions certified by District Judge James Carr of the Northern District of Ohio regarding House Bill 498 (125th General Assembly). Judge Carr is presently presiding over a suit filed against R.J. Corman Derailment Services Co., LLC by its employee, Carl Stetter, asserting intentional tort claims.
In 2005, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 498, the Employment Intentional Tort statute, which provided that an employer could not be liable for an intentional tort unless it was proved that the employer committed the tortious act with the intent to injure another or with the belief that the injury was substantially certain to occur (i.e., with the deliberate intent to cause an employee to suffer an injury, a disease, a condition, or death).
At issue before the Court in Stetter is whether House Bill 498 violates an employee's constitutional right to a trial by jury, to a remedy, to an open court, to due process, to equal protection under the law, and to separation of powers. The Supreme Court will also answer whether the bill exceeds the legislative authority granted to the General Assembly by the Ohio Constitution. Mr. Stetter filed his Merit Brief on September 15, 2008, arguing that R.C. § 2745.01, as amended by House Bill 498, is unconstitutional and does not do away with the common law cause of action for employer intentional tort. Respondent's brief is due to be filed in late November.
The case is captioned Stetter v. R.J. Corman Derailment Services Co., Ohio Supreme Court Case No. 2008-0972.