A recent case decided by the Ohio Supreme Court caught my eye. In Hoyle v. DTJ Enterprises, Inc. 2015-Ohio-843 the issue was insurance coverage, and who contributes to Supreme Court races.

Hoyle fell from a ladder jack and was seriously injured. He sued his employer for an intentional tort – an intentional injury. Normally when one sustains an injury on the job, the employer cannot be sued. Workers’ Compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy available to the worker. A narrow exception has been carved out for “intentional torts.” When an accident is reasonably certain to occur and the employee is hurt, the employee can still sue the employer. This is a simple explanation of a complex area of the law.

In this case, the employer had purchased insurance against intentional tort suits from the Cincinnati Insurance Company. The issue in the case was coverage – did the policy cover the employer for Hoyle’s suit. The policy provided coverage “for ‘those sums that an insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’ sustained by your ‘employee’ in the ‘workplace’ and caused by an ‘intentional act’ ****. But the Employers Liability Coverage Form also expressly excludes coverage for “liability for acts committed by or at the direction of an insured with the deliberate intent to injure.’”

Can anyone figure that out? The policy covers intentional acts but not those with deliberate intent. If an act is intentional isn’t it deliberate?

So in a class act, the Cincinnati Insurance Company claimed that the policy did not provide coverage to the employer. Go figure. The Company sold the employer a policy and charged a premium for coverage, then when the employer wanted coverage, the insurance company said, sorry, but this coverage does not mean what it says. You paid a premium for nothing.

If someone at the insurance company had a couple of ounces of brains, that person might think this was a dumb thing to do to its insured. That person might think, yes in the short run we can save money by denying coverage, but in the long run, we can advertise how we will protect you with our insurance and then sell more insurance.

But no, the company argued that there was no coverage and the Supreme Court agreed.

“Because liability for an employer intentional tort under R.C. 2745.01 requires a finding that the employer acted with the intention to injure an employee, we conclude that an insurance provision that excludes from coverage liability for an insured’s act committed with the deliberate intent to injure an employee precludes coverage for employer intentional torts. As a result, no facts could give rise to a duty upon CIC [Cincinnati Insurance Company] to indemnify DTJ or Cavanaugh, even if Hoyle were to prevail on his claims against them.”

Does this make sense?

This case has to be viewed in the light of political contributions. The author of the opinion was Justice French. In reviewing the campaign reporting schedule for candidate French available on the Secretary of State website, there are 244 contributions by individuals or entities identified as being employed by insurance companies. Of those contributions, 199 were by persons with affiliations with the Cincinnati Insurance Company. You can form your own opinion from those facts.

So what are the best courts in Ohio? I vote that the best courts are trial and appellate courts. Judges in those courts do not have to raise the large amounts of money required of candidates to the Ohio Supreme Court. When one reviews contributions to Ohio Supreme Court races the business community, the medical community, and the insurance industry are again and again the big contributors and that decisions favor those parties in the Ohio Supreme Court.

That is why I think the best courts are Ohio’s appellate and trial courts.