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City Liability for Personal Injury Lawsuits in Ohio Remains Capped at $250k

In a ruling released last week, the Ohio Supreme Court found a law that limits the amount of non-economic damages a city government can be required to pay a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit to $250,000 is constitutional, affirming part of Ohio’s sovereign immunity tort reform laws.

The October 1 decision stems from a 2002 case where two spectators at a Cleveland Indian’s game were wrongfully arrested and jailed for four days, according to a report by the Dayton Daily News. A lawsuit against the city of Cleveland for malicious prosecution and other charges resulted in a jury award to each man of $1 million, including $600,000 in punitive damages and $400,000 in compensatory damages.

Following the award, the trial judge threw out the punitive damages, but maintained the compensatory damages at $400,000 for each plaintiff, despite a motion by the city to cap the non-economic damages at $250,000. The decision was upheld at the intermediate appellate court, which found the Ohio local government damage cap unconstitutional. However, the Ohio Supreme Court overturned the ruling.

In a 5-2 decision, the Court found that the sovereign immunity law, which was enacted as part of tort reform in the state, is “rationally related to the purpose of preserving the financial integrity of political subdivisions” and does not violate the state constitution.

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