In some states, a limit has been placed on the amount of damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice actions. These limits, or caps, on damages are part of tort reform. The hope is to keep medical malpractice insurance premiums lower. Ohio is one of those states. As of April 11, 2003, Ohio law placed a cap on the amount of pain and suffering damages that can be awarded in a medical malpractice action.
According to Ohio law, the award of pain and suffering damages (also known as non-economic damages) in medical malpractice cases is limited to $250,000 or three times the economic damages up to a maximum of $350,000 per plaintiff or $500,000 in cases with more than one plaintiff.
If the plaintiff’s injuries are found to be catastrophic, the cap is $500,000 per plaintiff and $1 million in cases with more than one plaintiff. Catastrophic injuries include:
- A permanent and substantial deformity
- The loss of a limb or organ system
- An injury so severe that it precludes self-care
However, there is one exception to this cap. According to Ohio Constitution Article 1, § 19a, the amount of damages recoverable for a wrongful death cannot be limited by law. Therefore, the cap does not apply to wrongful death cases that arise from medical malpractice.
Previous caps on damages had been held to be unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. However, the constitutionality of this cap was upheld in Arbino v. Johnson & Johnson.