The Ohio Supreme Court tells us that the life of an Ohio citizen is not worth much. Your daughter is raped repeatedly by a serial rapist. The rapist gets off for $500,000. Oh, and the insurance which you purchased for medical care and counseling – you have to pay the health insurer back. That is the lesson of Simpkins v. Grace Brethren Church of Delaware, Ohio,Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-8118.

In Simpkins the senior pastor of a church raped a 15 year old girl in the church office. He had a prior history of sexual misconduct with parishioners, so her parents sued the church. Her damages were capped at $500,000 even though a jury had found damages in excess of three million dollars.

As I mentioned in a previous post, this is the result desired by the insurance industry, the medical industry, and the corporate business community. The CEOs in those fields make that much money for a few months work, but you or your child’s life and mental well being just isn’t worth a few months work. And as I pointed out in a previous post, those industries are the major contributors to Republican candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court and to your local legislator. You give your legislator your vote and they give him or her thousands of dollars.

In this case, the judges go through pages and pages as why they have to do this. I do not find their reasoning convincing enough to repeat. You can go online and read it. The real answer is in the Amicus Briefs filed by the insurance industry and the medical industry. Those briefs are essentially directives to the Court that, if you want our money this is what we want.
The two dissents are relevant. Written by Justices O’Neill (a Democrat who financed his own campaign) and Pfeiffer who has always been independent, hit the nail on the head.

“Tort reform,” however misguided and unconstitutional, was designed to protect doctors and corporate interests. *** Today, we learn that “tort reform,” not surprisingly, had unintended consequences. It turns out that “tort reform” (and the justices who sanctioned it) also ensured that rapists and those who enable them will not have to pay the full measure of the damages they cause—even if they rape a child. It is past time for the General Assembly (and this court) to reconsider “tort reform” and return the authority to determine damages to juries, where it rightfully and constitutionally belongs.
– Justice Pfeiffer.

I must dissent from the court’s decision on the first proposition of law. I cannot accept the proposition that a teenager who is raped by a pastor fits into a preordained formula for damages. Are we really ready to affirm the legislature’s decision to say to a future victim, “we don’t know you, we don’t know the facts of your case, and we don’t know what a duly empaneled jury is going to say, but your damages are a maximum of $500,000?” No parent of a teenage daughter would accept that outcome as being just.

A plaintiff’s damages, in terms of pain and suffering and future medical costs, could be astronomical. Or they could be nothing. Our system of civil justice leaves that question for the jury to decide, not the General Assembly. That is the point: a cookie-cutter approach simply does not work. In this case, a duly empaneled jury heard all the facts and found the damages to be over $3.6 million. By reducing that award to $500,000, the trial court has removed the jury from the process. If the General Assembly can limit damages for claims to $500,000, or $350,000, what would prevent it from limiting damages to $1? Would the court find that result to be constitutional?

This child was raped in a church office by a minister, and a duly empaneled jury established an appropriate level of compensation for the loss of her childhood innocence. We have no right to interfere with that process. Shame on the General Assembly. The children are watching. And I for one do not like what they are seeing.
Justice O’Neill.

So I leave with the question. Why do we as Ohioans keep beating ourselves down? Why are lives in other states worth more than in our state. We have lost jobs and continue to lose jobs. We are about to dip into the rainy day fund. The great sales pitch for limiting lawsuits, workers’ rights, compensation is that such limits advances economic development. The entire philosophy leads us and the state into a spiral down into economic depression and worthlessness.

We have one party rule in this state. The Republican Party controls the legislature, the Supreme Court and the Governor’s office. One party rule is just not good – Democrat or Republican. It is particularly bad when all branches of government are controlled by one party.