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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."



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.