Constitutionality of 2005 Ohio Personal Injury Law Challenged before State Supreme Court!
After nearly dying from a fatal blood clot following use of the Ortho Evra birth control patch, an Ohio woman is challenging the constitutionality of a 2005 personal injury law which places a cap on non-economic damages in the state.
A story in The Columbus Dispatch details the case of Melisa Arbino, who sued the manufacturers of the birth-control patch, Johnson & Johnson, after being hospitalized with a severe headache caused by blood clots in her brain.
Arbino's case just recently went before the state Supreme Court and has become an interesting vehicle for examining the constitutionality of the 2005 Ohio personal injury law, which limits non-economic damages in personal injury suits to $350,000 per person and $500,000 per incident.
Arbino's personal injury lawsuit claims that she began to take Ortho Evra after giving birth to her son in 2005. Some two weeks later, Arbino was hospitalized for the blood clots in her brain. A few days after that, she went to the hospital for blood clots in her lungs.
In her Ohio personal injury lawsuit, Arbino sued Johnson & Johnson for at least $75,000 damages to be determined by a jury. The Ohio Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by jury. At issue here is whether the state Constitution allows the jury to set economic damages as they see fit, especially when a tort reform law setting limits already exists.
If Arbino's Ohio personal injury attorneys are able to show that the state Constitution does afford the jury this power, the story indicated that the 2005 personal injury law would be ruled unconstitutional and void.
The Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers and the Ohio Conference of the NAACP are just some groups which are calling for the state Supreme Court to exactly do this. The National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are urging the Ohio Supreme Court to keep the 2005 personal injury law.
Johnson & Johnson attorney Bob Tucker noted that the Ohio legislature did not overstep its bounds when crafting the 2005 personal injury law. He also added that the Ortho Evra patch is FDA-approved and still on the market.
Arbino's Ohio personal injury lawyers were asked by several members of the state Supreme Court if lawmakers are prohibited from limiting damages in personal injury suits because of this constitutional right to a jury trial.
Chief Jusice Thomas J. Moyer said that lawmakers are not prohibited by this constitutional right from limiting personal injury damages while Justice Paul E. Pfeifer seemed to disagree. Ultimately, the Supreme Court's decision on this important question will determine the constitutionality of the 2005 personal injury law.
Examining the 2005 Ohio Personal Injury Law in More Detail
The Columbus Dispatch story said that this 2005 Ohio personal injury law was the result of a Republican-led effort to limit large damages in personal injury lawsuits in the state. It added that a similar Ohio tort reform law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1999 when it was more liberal.
In addition to placing the $350,000 and $500,000 caps on less severe personal injuries, the 2005 Ohio personal injury law also gave judges more ability to review and lower damages for more severe injuries and placed a 10-year limit on most personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.
Other aspects of this 2005 Ohio tort reform law further protected businesses and put consumers behind the eight ball by shielding companies from personal injury lawsuits if they acquired businesses with asbestos but no longer had this problem. The 2005 Ohio personal injury law also limited the amount of money that people could receive if they suffered car accident injuries while not wearing a seat belt and prevented obese people from suing fast food restaurants for their weight problems.
Further helping businesses and corporations, this 2005 Ohio tort reform law attempted to defined frivolous lawsuits and allowed companies being sued for damages to present evidence that an injury victim already had his or her medical bills paid for by another party.
Ultimately, this 2005 Ohio personal injury law is just another example of how big-party interests have been trying to curb personal injury lawsuits over the years. Whether it's the current debate about the Florida personal injury protection law, a Michigan drug lawsuit bill or something else, these corporations, insurance companies and other big-wigs continually show where their priorities reside above all other things: their bottom lines.