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Government & Politics

Ohio Supreme Court Says Capping Damages in Child Sex-Abuse Cases is Constitutional

Photo of the Ohio Supreme Court's main courtroom
JO INGLES
/
STATEHOUSE NEWS BUREAU
In the court's majority opinion, Justice Judith French notes the rape victim played sports, got good grades and did not seek mental health services.

The Ohio Supreme Court says a state law capping damages in sex-abuse cases is constitutional. That means a 15-year-old Delaware County girl raped by her pastor in 2008 will get a quarter of a million dollars – not the $3.5 million the jury awarded her family. 

The girl’s lawyer had argued the $250,000 cap is unconstitutional, especially when it comes to underage victims of sex crimes. But a majority of the court agreed those caps on non-injury cases passed by state lawmakers in 2005 are constitutional. 

In her majority opinion, Justice Judith French wrote that evidence showed the girl played sports, had good grades and hasn’t sought mental- health treatment. So, she wrote, in this case the non-injury cap applies.

In their pointed dissents, Justice Paul Pfeifer wrote that tort reform has ensured child rapists will not have to pay the full measure of damages. And Bill O’Neill wrote “Shame on the General Assembly."

The pastor, 54-year-old Brian Williams, just finished serving an eight-year sentence for sexual battery.