How has the state’s legal climate changed since tort reform was enacted?

This feature contains responses from industry professionals to questions posed by Business First.

Warren M. Enders – Partner, Reminger Co. LPA

Ohio’s recent tort reform legislation imposes “caps” on the amount of damages a medical malpractice plaintiff can recover for “noneconomic damages,” i.e., pain and suffering. In cases involving catastrophic injury, such as permanent disability or loss of a limb, a $500,000 per plaintiff and $1 million per occurrence limit applies. In other cases, the legislation caps a single plaintiff’s noneconomic damages at $250,000 or $350,000, depending on the amount of the plaintiff’s economic damages. These caps are also subject to a $500,000 per occurrence cap. There is no cap on economic damages, such as medical bills, cost for future medical treatment and lost wages. It has been our experience that tort reform legislation has considerably reduced the number of lawsuits filed against medical professionals. Locally, the reduction is in the range of 25 to 35 percent. Although fewer lawsuits are being filed, they often involve plaintiffs with catastrophic injuries and tend to allege considerable economic damages. Plaintiffs allege that they will require millions of dollars of future care and treatment. Increasing the amount of claimed economic damages is a means to get around the cap on noneconomic damages.

Tony Fiore – Chairman, Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice

In March 2008, the Pacific Research Institute released its annual U.S. Tort Liability Index. For the first time, Ohio ranked 4th best in the nation and was designated a “saint”– a state with “relatively strong tort rules” and low costs or few litigation risks. According to the institute, without tort reform, Ohio would have ranked 41st in the country. But because of tort reform, Ohio’s legal climate now surpasses all of our neighbors: Michigan–22nd; Kentucky–34th; Pennsylvania–31st; and Indiana–11th. Being a “saint” brings certain benefits – job creation, a competitive advantage over other states and an incentive for business location and expansion. So, the hard work of the Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice to pass comprehensive tort reform made an important contribution to our state’s economic health. As Ohio’s economy struggles to improve, we should thank the Ohio legislators who had the courage to reform our civil justice system. Now we must all work together to protect the progress we’ve made.

Mark Kitrick – Senior partner, Kitrick Lewis & Harris Co. LPA

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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