Gov. Bob Taft spoke yesterday in West Toledo in support of tort reform legislation, arguing that a proposed law limiting frivolous lawsuits would help small businesses such as the rug-cleaning firm that hosted his visit.
Ohio Sen. Steve Stivers (R., Columbus), who introduced the legislation in May, joined the governor in speaking to more than 50 people at Stoll Rug and Furniture Cleaners on Lewis Avenue
The state senate passed Mr. Stivers' bill, but the House has split the legislation into two parts and is still discussing them.
“We need comprehensive tort reform, and we need it now,” Governor Taft said.
“Ultimately, Ohio consumers pay the price of frivolous litigation.”
The governor said the House should pass Mr. Stivers' bill in its entirety, and he encouraged local residents to contact their representatives in support of the bill.
The proposed law uses several strategies to reduce the number of civil lawsuits. The bill would:
Cap jury awards for pain, suffering, and other noneconomic damages in the most serious cases, those involving loss of limb or permanent disfigurement, at $1 million per injury.
Cap jury awards for noncatastrophic cases at $500,000 per injury.
Limit punitive damages, those imposed by a jury to punish a defendant, at no more than the amount awarded for economic damages.
Set no limit on economic damages: lost wages, medical costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
Limit liability for product liability and construction-related claims to 10 years from the date the product or service was delivered. This would not apply to asbestos claims.
Forbid people from filing asbestos lawsuits unless they have symptoms of an asbestos-related disease.
Ohio would be the first state to establish medical criteria for asbestos claims.
“My goal is to have a balanced plan that compensates injured parties for their losses while removing the negative economic consequences of frivolous lawsuits,” Mr. Stivers said.
Governor Taft said frivolous lawsuits hurt the state's economy because businesses must pay high liability insurance rates.
He said those costs halt business growth and cause manufacturers to raise their prices, passing the expense to consumers.