It seems not a legislative session goes by without lawmakers taking up tort reform - an issue near and deal to the hearts of the insurance companies and their lobbyists.
In fact, it often seems as though our elected officials are actively working against voters, whether limiting your rights to collect damages for medical malpractice or restricting the rights of crime victims to pursue civil damages.
Our Columbus injury attorneys see the real impact on victims in the courtroom. A recent case in point is the $3.6 million verdict against Grace Brethren Church in Delaware County. A jury, having heard all the facts, made the award in June after a woman was sexually assaulted by the church's former pastor. In 2008, he had been convicted of sexual battery involving a 15-year-old.
Ohio Revised Code R.C. 2315.18 outlines exceptions to the Ohio law designed to limit non-economic losses to $250,000 or an amount equal to three times actual economic damages up to a maximum of $350,000 per plaintiff or $500,000 per occurrence. Here again, we have lawmakers arbitrarily deciding how much a victim should be paid, regardless of the jury's verdict or the unique facts and circumstances of the case.
In a ruling handed down August 5, Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Richard Markus ruled the victim in this case was not covered by any of the legal exceptions, and thus reduced the award to $500,000 - the maximum $350,000 for non-economic damages plus $150,000 for economic losses.
The victim was raped twice. The judge counted it as one instance, thus further limiting the compensation to which she might otherwise be entitled. Ohio has once again victimized the victim, even as it protects the perpetrator from economic harm.
Tort reform is a favorite topic of insurance companies and the politicians who rely on large corporate donations to get re-elected. There is little hard evidence that re-punishing the victim does anything but improve the profit margins of wealthy corporations. Studies continue to show such lawsuits are responsible for less than 10 percent of the cost of health care even as medical mistakes kill at least 100,000 annually. And, unfortunately, when it comes to compensating crime victims, lawmakers and court decisions continue to limit your rights of redress, even when they increase the criminal penalties for the underlying crime.
They get tough on drunk drivers, and then limit the damages defendants must pay to maimed victims or the devastated family members left behind. Under R.C. 2721.21, sex offenders can be labeled predators long after the underlying sentence for the crime has been served. However, Ohio lawmakers went out of their way to pass a 12-year statute of limitations (beginning when a child victim turns 18) to protect these same predators from facing civil liability for their actions.
The next time you hear lawmakers discussing tort reform, the real question you need to ask yourself is "Who are they representing?"
If you or a loved one have been injured in Ohio, call the Smith Law office today at 800-930-SCOTT to schedule a free consultation.