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Jason R. Schultz P.C

Ohio Supreme Court Ruling Eliminates Jury Discretion


Posted on Feb 12, 2008

WHETHER you're a CEO of a company or a guy who sweeps floors for a living, the Ohio Supreme Court has put its stamp of approval on a law that could have devastating consequences for you if you're seriously injured in an accident.

In a major opinion issued last month, the court showed contempt for its past decisions, disrespect for the Ohio Constitution, and disdain for the men and women who serve on juries.

The court, in a case called Arbino vs. Johnson & Johnson, said for the first time in Ohio history that it's constitutional to disregard the findings of a jury if the jury decides to award more than $250,000 to someone injured in an accident to compensate for the person's pain - even if that pain may last a lifetime.

The court reached this landmark decision despite clear precedent that such a law is unconstitutional. Essentially what the court says this time around is that the Ohio General Assembly really, really, really, really wants to limit damages for insurance companies, so who are we to stand in their way?

Look at what the Ohio Constitution says, then you decide whether what the court has done makes any sense. The relevant part of Article I, Section 5 states, "The right of trial by jury shall be inviolate …"

In Ohio, the constitutional right to trial by jury has always been interpreted to mean that judges and the government won't be able to invade the jury's fact-finding function.

That's why jurors are there, right? To hear the facts of each individual case and decide what they think is fair. Now, though, jurors can spend days or weeks hearing the facts of a case, reach a difficult decision that the injured person should be awarded a sum to compensate for the pain an accident has caused, only to have that decision gutted by a judge if the sum exceeds $250,000.

How does the right to a trial by jury remain inviolate if a law requires judges to violate the decisions a jury reaches? We should probably now read the constitution to say: The right to a jury shall be inviolate, provided it doesn't cost an insurance company too much money.

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