Why Caps on Non-Economic Damages Negatively Impact Ohio Victims

On December 9, 2004, Ohio instituted caps on non-economic punitive damages under new tort reform legislation, amended substitute Senate Bill 80.  This legislation limits the amount of non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss of consortium, etc.) for non-catastrophic injuries (catastrophic injuries involve permanent and substantial physical deformity, loss of use of a limb or permanent physical function injury). The cap is the greater of $250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages up to $350,000 and $500,000 per occurrence.

Furthermore, there are also limits in Ohio on the amount of punitive damages recoverable from certain employers. For large employers (100 or more full-time employees) the caps are two times the amount of compensatory damages. For small employers (100 or fewer full-time employees), the caps are the lesser of two times the compensatory damages, ten times the employees or individuals at work or $350,000.

Background on Caps

In 2005, State lawmakers capped non-economic damages with the hope these caps would benefit businesses and insurers by restricting potential losses in civil lawsuits.

Caps even apply on damages sought in child rape cases. If victims do not face physical harm but rather mental, the non-economic damages are $350,000. Sadly, the law limits the civil rights of victims and instead safeguards those who have committed unspeakable crimes against children.

Consider the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas decision reported by The Columbus Dispatch. The case involved a twenty-one year old woman who was sexually assaulted at the age of fifteen (15) by her pastor. The jury awarded $3.6 million for the grief the victim incurred since the Pastor attacked her. The Columbus Dispatch reported that she could receive a maximum of $500,000 due to the State’s limit on compensatory damages on emotional stress in civil cases. The judge, following the 2005 caps on damages, reduced pain and suffering damages against the church to $350,000. (Law Cuts Damages Awarded to Sex-assault Victim; The Columbus Dispatch, Arenschield, L. (08/10/2013))

Why Caps Hurt Victims

The caps on pain and suffering damages deprive these child rape clients of the medical care they may need to properly deal with depression and other mental anguish. Frankly, you cannot place a cap on non-economic damages for children who are sexually raped or sexually abused.

In conclusion, these caps protect the rights of people found responsible for raping and sexually abusing children, who are likely to have had little economic loss themselves.

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