News Home
Quick Bites
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
On AirNewsClassical
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.


Wayside Furniture

Levin Furniture

For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )

Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Courts and Crime

Tort reform through the lens of a rape victim
The Ohio law, passed in the name of limiting lawsuit abuses, poses controversy for plaintiffs of negligence and malpractice cases

The Ohio Statehouse is where the lawmaking process takes place.
Courtesy of The Ohio Statehouse
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

A decade ago, Ohio passed so-called tort reform laws, which severely limited jury awards in negligence and malpractice cases.

Supporters say the laws have helped Ohio's economy; victims say it lets wrong-doers off the hook.

From Ohio Public Radio member station WOSU, Mandie Trimble has the story of one woman affected by tort reform.

LISTEN: The cost of tort reform

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:34)

It was during a Bible study that Jess says she met Brian Williams, the new minister of Sunbury Grace Brethren Church in Delaware. She was 15 years old. Williams was 42.

“My grades were falling at school, and my guidance counselor thought it was because of unresolved issues at home. So she advised me to go talk to my pastor at church because she knew I was big into church,” Jess said.

During that meeting, Williams attacked Jess.

Because Jess is a sexual assault victim, we’re only using her first name.

Williams pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery; he’s serving an eight-year prison term.

Jess sued the churches who hired the pastor and a Delaware County jury awarded her $3.6 million. The bulk of the award was for pain and suffering. But state law caps non-economic losses in most cases, to $250,000. So, a judge reduced Jess’ total award to $310,000.

'Protecting bad people'
“We are now protecting, as a matter of public policy, a whole lot of bad people in Ohio,” attorney John Fitch said.

Fitch is Jess’ lawyer.

“To me, it’s something that’s very disturbing,” Fitch said. “I’ve called it a moral outrage. And I continue to feel it’s a moral outrage. We don’t need to cap the damages of children who are raped in this state.”

Tort reform has been described as a pendulum; in whose favor it swings depends on which political party controls the Statehouse. 

Ten years ago, then-Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, signed two major tort-reform provisions into law. One capped pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases, the other limited non-economic awards in other cases.

“There was a big thrust to try to improve the economy of Ohio,” Columbus attorney Terrance Miller said.

Critical to business
Miller defends businesses sued in product-liability cases.  He says the laws provide predictability for companies.

“And not just big businesses, and certainly not just insurance companies, small business owners, anybody who could be subjected to a very large award in a tort suit which could have the effect of crippling or terminating their business,” Miller said.

The National Federation of Independent Business in Ohio played a role limiting awards.

The federation's Chris Ferruso says tort reform is critical to small business owners because, again, it provides predictability.

“That’s been reflective through an increase in certainly carriers in the state willing to write liability insurance for small business owners,” Ferruso said. “And I think we can all agree competition drives price down. It is a cost of doing business.”

Doctors pushed hard for the limits. The Ohio State Medical Association’s Tim Maglione says large civil awards drove up malpractice insurance rates and caused some doctors, particularly specialists, to quit their practices.

“It really became an access-to-care issue,” Maglione said.

He said the legislation is working; insurance premiums have dropped by more than 25 percent.

“We are not hearing from physicians today like we did 10 years ago that they are having to stop providing services to their patients because they can’t get affordable liability coverage,” Maglione  said.

Who is spinning?
But Jess’ attorney, John Fitch, says the arguments are bunk.

“The spin they put on it sounds good, but the reality is cases like this, where very deserving victims have their awards slashed, ... profits, as in this case, flow directly to the insurance industry,” Fitch said.

Attorney Terrance Miller -- who supports tort reform -- acknowledges the policies are not perfect, especially as they relate to arbitrary limits.

“I do understand the concerns about how this applies in certain individual situations, and it may be that there would need to be a further thought about an additional exception to the cap, although I think it would be very difficult to implement that,” Miller said.

Jess continues to move forward with life. She expects to finish college in January and hopes to attend the police academy. But her past looms in the shadows in the form of an on-going appeals process and nightmares.

“I just wish I could get over it and not let it affect me at all,” she said.

Add Your Comment


E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook

Stories with Recent Comments

New options in Ohio for secular wedding ceremonies
Hello Mike, I support this action. I was not previously aware of the difficulty couples may encounter in locating officials to serve in their non-religious mar...

Charter reform bill includes controversial change for some teachers
I work for a former White Hat charter school; it was sold to another (for-profit) company this past summer and we were told that they would not pay into STRS/PE...

Bhutanese resettlement has had a big economic impact
Informative especially for nonmembers of North Hill. I appreciate the fact that you mention that the younger generation has an easier time than the elders but t...

Ottawa County Commissioner sworn in as new house member
Congratulations on your new appointment to the Ohio House. I'm certain you will do an outstanding job in your new role representing our district. When you have...

Holden Arboretum opens a new canopy walk and emergent tower
Visited the Holden Arboretum today to witness the incredible work you did constructing the tower and bridges.WOW! Very impressed. Knew the build had to be great...

Local club works to bring back the once-prevalent American elm
I would love to help! Where would I get some of the new Strain so I could plant them?

Four Geauga school districts consider consolidating on the Kent State campus
Berkshire was smart to merge with Ledgemont because it had shrinking enrollment and excess capacity at its high school. Now that Cardinal is dragging its feet ...

Ohio Rep. John Boccieri sworn into office and hopes to look for 'middle ground' with colleagues
Welcome back to the Statehouse, John. You are a terrific representative in the truest sense always representing the people's voice in teh district you serve. ...

Lawmakers call for indefinite freeze on Green Energy standards
It's a shame the Hudson Rep. Chooses to mimic the words of the extreme right senator on his way out to join ALEC when we know the Pope was just here because of...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University