On December 27, 2007, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Ohio’s legislation that limits the amount of punitive and non-economic damages available in most Ohio tort actions. The 5-2 decision in Arbino v. Johnson & Johnson, Slip Op. No. 2007-Ohio-6948 (Ohio Dec. 27, 2007) “affirms the General Assembly’s efforts over the last several decades to enact meaningful tort reforms” and “places Ohio firmly with the growing number of states that have found such reforms to be constitutional.” Specifically, this law aims to protect injured parties while bringing fairness and clarity to the business community.
The limitations on damages apply to all tort claims except medical malpractice-type claims; the limitations do not apply to breach of contract claims. There is no exception for employment-related tort claims such as wrongful discharge in violation of public policy or intentional infliction of emotional distress. These employment-related tort claims are therefore subject to the following limitations on damages:
- Punitive damages against large employers (more than 500 full-time employees in manufacturing businesses; more than 100 full-time employees for all others): These damages are limited to two times the amount of compensatory damages.
- Punitive damages against individuals or small employers (500 or fewer full-time employees in manufacturing businesses; 100 or fewer full-time employees for all others): These damages are limited to the lesser of two times the amount of compensatory damages or 10 percent of the employer’s net worth at the time the tort was committed, up to a maximum of US$350,000.
- Non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, etc.): These damages are limited to the greater of US$250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages up to a maximum of US$350,000 for each plaintiff or, in the case of claims resulting from bodily injury, a maximum of US$500,000 per occurrence, unless the plaintiff suffers the loss of use of a limb, loss of a body organ, a permanent and substantial physical deformity, or a permanent physical functional injury that prevents independent care, in which cases these damages are not limited.
- Economic damages (such as lost wages, etc.): These damages are not limited