The real stuff is bad enough

Ohio has seen more than its fair share of tort deform laws over the last decade.  These laws have the affect of making it harder for folks who get hurt, through no fault of their own, to be made whole again.

 

 

Man with a broken leg  walking on crutches

As if reality wasn’t bad enough, I saw this post on The Pop Tort about fictitious laws on TV shows written in to scripts to limit fictitious rights of the characters.  Art imitating life indeed.

What does this mean to you:

Know that insurance companies and corporations have lobbyists.  Most of us don’t.  When laws get passed, guess which one they favor?

 

 

Separate AND unequal

Tragic story yesterday of two employees that were run down yesterday at Children’s Hospital in Columbus.  So why would Ohio law treat these two people – both injured in the same incident – differently from one another?

Your hurdle

One of the men was unfortunately killed in the wreck, while the other survived.  Ohio law places a limit or “cap” on the value of the injured man’s pain while not limiting the intangible losses to the family of the other.  I thought that was up to the jury to decide, not the politicians?

What does this mean to you:

The law is constantly changing, for better or for worse.  Make sure you understand the current law under which any potential claims are brought, as it may be different for different people at different times.

 

What did he know and when did he know it?

People’s knowledge of prior results matters.  If your child builds a tree house 10 times and it collapsed violently each time, but still sends his sibling up into to the tree house, those prior results are important to figuring out what is the appropriate response for your child, love him though you may.

 

 

box head

 

Why, then, are lawmakers in Arizona considering a law that would allow manufacturers there to keep prior results secret?  If the maker of a product, take a lawn mower, for example, knows that it’s mower continues to injure people in its tests, but sells it anyway, isn’t that something that would be good to at least consider?

What does this mean to you:

Lawmakers around the county, including Ohio, continue passing laws to protect their corporate backers usually under the guise of making their state “business friendly.”  Since when did “business friendly” mean “anti-people?”

 

Can you point me to the legal fiction aisle?

Corporations are many things.  They are convenient economic tools.  They are employers of many thousands of human people.  They sometimes even create beautiful objects which human people can use and covet.

See how tall he is?

But corporations are not people, my friend, despite what some have said.  Unlike human people, corporations live forever.  They can exist in multiple places simultaneously.  They have no heart, no soul, and no conscious.  They cannot speak or run for office or do any other thing that human people do.  To put it bluntly, corporations are property owned by human people.  (Which raises the question – is it then unconstitutional to own a corporation since the 13th Amendment outlawed the ownership of persons?)

What does this mean to you:

The word “corporation” is used nowhere the Constitution, a fact, of which, Thomas Jefferson was well-aware.  When corporations are improperly defined as “people,” they get the peoples’ rights.  Rights like “free speech.”  They then use the peoples’ rights to their benefit, like influencing what laws get passed.  Many times (and by “many” I mean “every,”) human people like you and me do not want the same laws passed as corporations such as Exxon Mobile or JP Morgan or Allstate Insurance. Laws like limits on how much a jury of your peers can give when someone has been injured by a dangerous product or a reckless semi truck driver, or laws saying a product is no longer defective as long as it is 10 years old, or laws limiting the amount to punish companies who intentionally hurt others.

Can we at least send them to their room with no dessert?

Every parent knows that, from time to time, a little punishment can be warranted.  We generally punish for the really bad stuff, and even then, the punishment has to “fit the crime.”  In really bad cases, juries can punish bad behavior too by awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are hard to actually prove, and as a result, are rarely awarded.

The type of behavior punitive damages discourage is the worst of the worst – intentional, dangerous behavior.  The classic example is the infamous Ford Pinto, often recognized as one of the worst cars of all time.  Ford engineers knew its gas tank design was likely catch fire in a crash and knew how to fix it for only $11 per car, but decided it would be cheaper to let people burn and pay the lawsuits.

Why, then, did the Ohio Supreme Court recently make it even harder to punish wrongdoers when they deserve it?  And why are lawmakers in Arizona seeking to exempt manufacturers of dangerous products from being punished when their conduct warrants it?  How will this create jobs or make products safer?  Hint: It’s not a trick question.

What does this mean to you?

Know your legislators and judges.  Let them know that everyone, including corporations, should be accountable for their actions.

Well that’s good to know

Did you know that 10 years after a product is made, it is no longer dangerous in Ohio?  Few!  What a relief!  I feel much safer now.

Is this some miraculous feat of magic that automatically renders products safe – anything from an industrial punch press in a factory to the toaster in your kitchen – after the specified time of 10 years?

On the contrary, it is merely a feat of legal maneuvering.  The General Assembly passed a law a while back called a statute of repose.  Statutes of repose start the clock ticking for when you can bring a case when the product is made, whether or not you even know of the defect yet.  These are different from statutes of limitations, which only start the clock running once you have been injured or at least know that something is wrong.  Because statutes of repose can cut off your right to bring a case before you even know you have a case, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the law as unconstitutional.

But, suprisingly, when the General Assembly again passed the same law in 2005, this time the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the statute of repose!  This does nothing to make products safer, protect Ohioans, or encourage manufacturers to design safer products.  In fact, statutes of repose create an incentive to only make products safe for the first 10 years.  After that, no matter how dangerous the design and no matter how bad the manufacture was, the manufacturer is not responsible for any harm caused by their product in Ohio.

So much for extended warranties!

What does this mean to you?

Product liability cases often involve lengthy investigation.  The sooner a lawyer can research the product, the more likely the case will yield a successful result.

We were sold a bill of goods

Over the last 20+ years, lawmakers in Ohio have been on a crusade to protect people.  Corporate people, mind you, not human people, but people nonetheless, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.  We were told that limiting jury awards would save jobs and create a “business friendly” environment .  As the graph below shows, this has not been the case in Ohio.  Even though the number of product liability cases filed in Ohio has dropped dramatically, the unemployment rate has continued to shoot through the roof.  Tort reform has failed.

Source:

2010 Ohio Courts Statistical Summary, http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/Publications/annrep/10OCS/summary/14.pdf;

US Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LASST39000003

Even in the face of such staggering statistics, business and insurance lobby groups continue to advocate for the same, worn out tort reform, hoping for a different outcome.  This, of course, is the classic definition of insanity.