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Ohio Tort Reform: Damages Summary

Cincinnati, Ohio Product Liability Lawyer Discusses Ohio Tort Reform


In April 2005, Ohio Tort Reform took effect with Senate Bill 80, which substantively changed the landscape of Ohio personal injury law. This outline focuses solely on the damage limitations that went into effect. These limitations do not affect causes of action that accrued before the effective date of April 7th, 2005.


I. Ohio Tort Reform Definitions

  • “Catastrophic Injury” is defined either (a) permanent and substantial physical deformity, (b) loss of use of limb, (c) loss of bodily organ systems, (d) permanent physical functional injury that permanently prevents the injured person from being able to independently care for self, and perform life-sustaining activities.
  • “Non-economic damages” are defined as (a) non-pecuniary harm from an injury or (b) loss to person or property that is the subject of a tort action—Examples of non-economic damages include:  pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and mental anguish.
  • “Small Employer”is defined as (a) an employer who employs 100 or fewer full time people, or (b) if the employer is classified as a part of the manufacturing sector by the North American industrial classification system, then it is a small employer if it employs not more than 500 full time people.
  • “Tort Action” is defined in Senate Bill 80 as a civil action for damages for injury or loss to person or property. It includes product liability and asbestos claim but does not include medical, dental or chiropractic claim, nor does it apply to wrongful death actions.

II. Ohio Tort Reform does not Limit Economic Compensatory Damages

There is no limit on compensatory damages that represent economic loss; i.e., medical bills, lost wages.


III. Ohio Tort Reform Limits  on Non-Catastrophic and Catastrophic Compensatory Damages

Court has no jurisdiction to enter judgment on a jury award of compensatory damages for non-economic loss in excess of the limits set forth in R.C. 2315.18(B)

  • Non-Catastrophic Injury:   The non-economic award is limited to $250,000 per plaintiff, or three times the economic loss, up to $350,000 per plaintiff. A maximum of $500,000 for each “occurrence” that is the basis of that tort action.

IV. Ohio Tort Reform Restricts Punitive Damages

A. Limitation on Amount of an Award:

  • Court shall not enter judgment for punitive damages in excess of two times the amount of the compensatory damages awarded to plaintiff;
  • If the defendant is a “small employer” or individual, the judgment for punitive damages shall be the lesser of two times the amount of compensatory damages, or 10% of the employer’s or individual’s net worth when the tort was committed, up to a maximum of $350,000
  • Large employers fall under the limits in R.C. 2315.21(D)(2)(a):  two times the amount of compensatory damages

B. Exceptions:

Punitive Damages are allowed if:

(a) Plaintiff proves defendant’s acts/omissions demonstrate malice or aggravated or egregious fraud, or that defendant knowingly authorized, participated in, or ratified actions/omissions of an agent or servant, AND

(b) Trier of fact has returned a verdict or made a determination as to the amount of recoverable compensatory damages.


V. Immunity for Punitive Damages:

Court shall not award punitive damages, if:

A) Defendant files certified judgment or other evidence with the court showing that punitive damages have already been awarded and collected from defendant;

B) In any other state or federal court

C) Based on the same act or course of conduct alleged in present case; and

D) Aggregate of those previous punitive awards exceeds the maximum amount that may be awarded under R.C. 2315.21(D)(2)


VI. Defendant not Liable for Punitive Damages:

A)  If the drug/device was manufactured and labelled in accordance with the terms of an approval or license issued by the federal food and drug administration under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or the Public Health Service Act. R.C. 2307.80(C)

B)   Marketed pursuant to federal regulations; Generally recognized as safe and effective; Not misbranded; and Satisfied in “relevant and material respects” the regulations and applicable monograph. R.C. 2307.80(C)

C) The manufacturer or supplier fully complied with all applicable government safety and performance standards relative to the product’s manufacture or construction, the product’s design or formulation, adequate warnings or instructions, and representations, and The plaintiff’s injury/harm resulted from a defect in one these areas.  R.C. 2307.80(D)


VII. Exceptions to Immunity:

A)  New and substantial evidence of previously undiscovered, additional behavior on the part of the defendant, or

B) The total amount of prior punitive damages awards was totally insufficient to punish that defendant’s behavior and to deter that defendant and others from similar behavior in the future.

C ) Fraud by withholding or misrepresenting information from the FDA. R.C. 2307.80(C)

D) Defendant fraudulently and in violation of government safety and performance standards, withheld or misrepresented relevant or material information from an applicable government agency. R.C. 2307.80(D)


VIII. Punitive Damages Award Off-Set

However, the court shall reduce the amount of the award by the sum of the previous award in any other state or federal court.


IX. Ohio Tort Reform and Collateral Benefits

Defendant may introduce evidence of any amount payable as a benefit to the plaintiff as a result of the damages that result from an injury, death, or loss to person or property that is the subject of the claim. R.C. 2315.20

Defendant may not introduce collateral benefits if the source of the collateral benefits:

    1. Has a mandatory self-effectuating federal right of subrogation (Medicare);
    1. Has a contractual right of subrogation (health insurance or auto med pay insurance);
    1. Has a statutory right of subrogation (workers comp subrogation); or
  1. Pays the plaintiff a benefit in the form of life insurance or disability insurance
  • If the Defendant elects to introduce evidence of collateral benefits, plaintiff may introduce evidence of any amount that the plaintiff has paid or contributed to the receive the respective collateral benefits.
  • Collateral benefits statute applies to some torts, including personal injury, intentional tort, product liability, and asbestos claims. Does not apply to medical malpractice claims.

Joe Lyon is a Cincinnati, Ohio product liability and catastrophic injury lawyer representing individuals in medical device litigation, pharmaceutical litigation, vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, and toxic tort cases.  For questions on your legal rights and or discuss co-counsel arrangements, please contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403.  


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