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December 20, 2004


Ohio enacts wide-ranging liability reforms

Following strenuous battles, the Ohio legislature this month enacted and sent to Gov. Robert Taft (who plans to sign it) a watered-down but still significant package of liability limits. The legislation:

* Limits noneconomic damages to $350,000 per person and $500,000 per incident except in cases of catastrophic injury;

* Expands the current definition of frivolous lawsuits;

* Curtails punitive damages;

* Enacts a ten-year time limit for many product liability claims, chemicals and drugs excluded, as well as a government standards defense;

* Enacts a seat-belt defense in car-crash cases;

* Protects some companies from successor liability over asbestos products once sold by companies they bought;

* Restricts obesity litigation against restaurants and foodmakers;

(Cincinnati Enquirer (+ editorial); Toledo Blade; legislative guide from Bricker & Eckler law firm).

Earlier (see Aug. 20), Ohio enacted first-in-the-nation legislation requiring asbestos claimants to meet specified medical criteria to qualify for compensation. Although the Ohio Supreme Court in much-criticized opinions threw out two earlier sets of liability reforms, voters have since shifted the balance on the court and the present line-up of judges is thought more likely to uphold the law.

P.S. A Dec. 14 Toledo Blade editorial states: "One glaring shortcoming is that the measure fails to include a British-style 'loser pays' provision, which would dramatically discourage frivolous lawsuits."

Posted by Walter Olson at 12:07 AM | TrackBack (0)



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