“The right of trial by jury shall be inviolate.” Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Ohio. The clear language of Ohio’s Constitution holds that the right to jury trial shall not be infringed, yet the Ohio Legislature has continuously and relentlessly continued to chip away at that right. One such example is the “tort reform” bill passed in 2004 which serves to, among other things, cap the amount of non-economic damages an injured plaintiff is allowed to receive in a civil lawsuit. Non-economic damages refer to compensation for subjective, non-monetary losses such as pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
This article from Cleveland.com illustrates the problems with this type of legislation. It details the history of a sexual assault lawsuit that resulted in the jury awarding $20 million in non-economic damages to a plaintiff that suffered horrific childhood sexual assaults and abuse. However, as a result of this 2004 law, her noneconomic damages were reduced to just $250,000.
Do you think the jury who hears a case should decide the damages in that case? Or should the Republican-controlled Ohio State Legislature decide how much a plaintiff’s case should be worth without ever hearing the individual facts of that case?
This is an issue that plaintiffs and their counsel have been advocating against for the last two decades. And now, there is an opportunity to truly do something about it. This particular case was recently accepted on appeal by the Ohio Supreme Court by a 4-3 vote. The 3 justices who voted against hearing this case are three staunch Republicans – Justices Pat DeWine, Pat Fischer, and Sharon Kennedy – who have continually put the interests of Ohio businesses before the supposed “inviolate” rights of Ohio’s citizens. Two of those justices (DeWine and Fischer) are nearing the end of their terms and will be running for re-election in 2022. The only way to ensure your right to a jury trial will remain intact is to support Supreme Court candidates who will uphold the Ohio Constitution.