Ohio Supreme Court Upholds 2005 Law Limiting Injured Worker Suits

March 24, 2010

In two separate decisions, the Supreme Court of Ohio upheld as constitutional a 2005 state law that limits the ability of workers who are injured on the job to sue their employers for a “workplace intentional tort” in addition to receiving state workers’ compensation benefits.

The challenged statute requires that workers asserting intentional tort claims against their employer must prove that, in committing the acts or omissions that resulted in a worker’s injuries, the employer acted “with a deliberate intent to cause injury.”

In Kaminski v. Metal & Wire Products Co., the Court held 6-1 that the challenged statute, R.C. 2745.01, does not violate Section 34 or 35 of Article II of the Ohio Constitution. Those sections authorize the General Assembly to enact statutes that provide for “the comfort, health, safety and general welfare of all employees,” and to adopt laws facilitating the resolution of employment-related injury claims through the Ohio Workers’ Compensation program.

In Stetter v. R.J. Corman Derailment Services, the Court answered questions of state law submitted by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. In a 6-1 decision, the Court found that R.C. 2745.01 does not violate the provisions of the Ohio Constitution that guarantee trial by jury, a remedy for damages, open courts, due process, equal protection of the laws or the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government.

The Court also held that, while R.C. 2745.01 limits the ability of workers to assert common law employer intentional tort claims previously recognized by this Court, it does not eliminate such claims.

Based on those findings, and its holding in Kaminski, the Court concluded that R.C. 2745.01 is constitutional on its face.

The majority opinions in both cases were written by Justice Robert R. Cupp.

Source: Ohio Supreme Court, http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/PIO/summaries/2010/0323/080857_080972.asp

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