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Ohio Supreme Court Destroys Jurors’ Role and Fulfills Dreams of Greedy Insurance Companies

Friday, December 28, 2007
Jack MeeHoff

Columbus, Ohio – In a major victory for insurance companies and those who wish to be able to determine the financial risks associated with injuring people due to their own negligence; the Ohio Supreme Court rules that caps on damage awards in personal injury lawsuits, declaring them constitutional by a 5-2 margin this Thursday, December 27, 2007.

There were several business organizations who convinced – some say paid off – the Ohio legislature to cap damages awards to victims who are injured to a neglectful business economic in injuring others, effectively destroying hundreds of years of well settled law as it relates to the rights of man. But health care organizations are gleeful that they can always know no matter how careless they are, it will only cost them a sum certain, rather that being exposed to what a jury believes the value of the case is.

One dissenting justice stated it was a: “a sad day for the court” and “a tragic day for Ohioans.”

The Court actually upheld damages caps approved by the legislature way back in year 2004. One of the statutes has a cap on awards for pain and suffering and intangible injuries to a maximum of $350,000 unless the injured person loses bodily organ or a limb. The other statute limits punitive damages normally understood to be a sort of death penalty to businesses who put profits over people, to just two times the amount of compensatory damages awarded by juries for injuries. The Court’s shocking ruling was the result of several years of litigation by Plaintiff Melisa Arbino, a Cincinnati woman, versus Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Co. The allegations were in part, that Johnson & Johnson was negligent, causing blood clots due to the use of a birth control patch manufactured and distributed by Defendant Johnson & Johnson.

An organization considered by many consumers to be an anti-victim, anti-plaintiff group, called the Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice, claims the ruling sets: “parameters that fairly award injured parties while providing a reasonable and predictable system for Ohio’s job creators.”

The Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice consistently argued that the tort damages caps have been long needed in order to encourage businesses to stay afloat and also to help businesses create jobs without being threatened by run away jury verdicts. Consumer groups retort that if businesses followed the law to begin with, they wouldn’t get sued and there would be no fear. “This simply acts as a get out of jail free card.” According to California trial attorney, Michael P. Ehline.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, who wrote the majority opinion, said damages caps still let juries be fact-finders in personal-injury lawsuits, but simply allows the General Assembly to determine how much the jury gets to award.

“We are charged with evaluating the constitutionality of their choices,” Wrote Moyer. “Issues such as the wisdom of damage limitations and whether the specific dollar amounts available under them best serve the public interest are not for us to decide.”

Moyer did seem to agree that the Court had in the past rejected damages in injury lawsuits in over 30 years, but now a bill had been written good enough to take away the historical role and right of the jury, stating the new legislation approved by the General Assembly three years ago fixed these constitutional “problems.”

Justices Maureen O’Connor, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, and Judith Ann Lanzinger all joined in the Court’s majority opinion. Justice Robert R. Cupp wrote a separate and concurring opinion.

Justices Terrence O’Donnell, and Paul E. Pfeifer wrote dissents. They both agreed that the cap on intangible damages clearly violates the constitutional rights of injured victims because it lets the legislature, instead of juries determine damage awards in tort lawsuits.

“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,” Pfeifer wrote in the dissent. “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.” O’Donnell wrote that the damages cap on pain-and-suffering awards by juries: “substitutes the judgment of the General Assembly for that of a jury.”

This victory for evildoers will certainly reverberate in California. It’s up to educated consumers to see through the smoke screen. He who has the money makes the rules. Businesses and corrupt insurance companies are on the move. Paying off elected officials and making sure retired judges have plenty of work as arbitrators and referees when they retire, makes certain that wrongdoers will be able to kill you and limit how much they have to pay. Now you are a mere calculable risk, instead of a potential death blow to their pocketbooks. We hope you enjoyed this press report about how the Ohio Supreme Court destroys jurors’ role and fulfills dreams of greedy insurance companies by aggressive Los Angeles personal injury attorneys.

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