In Ohio, injured people face a significant challenge when attempting to hold others accountable for the harm they have inflicted. The reason: Damages caps. Passed in the mid-2000s – as part of a national trend in response to perceived “runaway jury” verdicts – lawmakers in Ohio capped the amount people could recover for noneconomic damages at between $250,000 and $350,000 depending on certain criteria. Noneconomic damages consist of things like emotional injuries and pain and suffering associated with being harmed. In many cases – like cases involving the sexual abuse of a child or traumatic brain injuries – there are little to no physical injuries, only emotional ones. The artificial caps – which have never been adjusted even for inflation since they were enacted over 22 years ago – enacted by lawmakers thus prevent these people from getting anything more than the $250,000 or $350,000 to compensate them for trauma which very well may be with them for the rest of their life regardless of what a jury of their peers says they are entitled to.
Currently, there are limited exceptions (meaning that the caps do not apply in this instance) to noneconomic damages caps. The first is when the person suffers from a “permanent and substantial physical deformity, loss of use of a limb, or loss of a bodily organ system,” and the second is when a “permanent physical functional injury permanently prevents the injured person from being able to independently care for self and perform life-sustaining activities.” Just last month, a Columbus-area judge ruled that traumatic brain injuries could qualify under one of the exceptions.
In George v. Magretech, LLC, (Franklin Co. Case No. 20CV-4001) the plaintiff was struck in the back of a head by an improperly rigged crane hook and suffered significant injuries. These injuries included PTSD, depression, post concussive disorder, anxiety, memory loss, lack of concentration, headaches, and significant cognitive dysfunction with his endocrine system. The issue with his endocrine system will require him to get injections of growth hormones for the rest of his life. The plaintiff and his attorney also presented evidence that these injuries would prohibit him from caring for himself or even performing sedentary work because he would need to be reminded to do even the simplest of tasks. In reviewing the evidence, the judge agreed with the plaintiff that whether he met one of the exceptions to the damages caps was a factual issue. Practically, this means that a jury of his peers will make that determination. This is precisely what should happen, as the 7th Amendment affords citizens with the right to have a civil jury decide their cases.
Good decisions like this – recognizing the permanent and devastating nature of brain injuries – are only possible with lawyers who are knowledgeable both about the law and the corresponding science behind brain injuries. At Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima , we pride ourselves on being well-versed and knowledgeable about both. If you or a loved one has been injured, call us today for a case evaluation to be sure you pursue and receive the full compensation you are owed.