CINCINNATI - The Ohio Supreme Court upheld a state law yesterday that limits how much a person injured by a defective product can collect in pain-and-suffering damages, reversing its stance on a closely watched issue.
Attorneys for injured people nationwide have followed the lawsuit filed by Melisa Arbino, a Cincinnati property manager, over the Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch made by Johnson & Johnson. She contended the product caused her permanent physical damage and threatened her ability to have children, and her attorney argued that limits on damages were unconstitutional.
Companies supporting limits also have followed the case.
The majority opinion in the 5-2 ruling said the Ohio law limiting damages did not violate the constitutional rights of injured parties to trial by jury, to a remedy for their injuries, or to due process and equal protection.
"The decision in this case affirms the General Assembly's efforts over the last several decades to enact meaningful tort reforms," Ohio Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer wrote.
In one of its challenged provisions, the law limits awards at $250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages, whichever is greater, up to an absolute limit of $350,000. An exception is when a plaintiff suffers permanent disability or loss of a limb or bodily organ system.
Another provision prohibits awards for punitive damages exceeding two times the amount of the compensatory damages awarded the same defendant.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Federation of Independent Business Legal Foundation had joined in urging the court to uphold the law.
Groups urging the court to overturn it included the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Ohio Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.