COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio woman repeatedly raped as a child suffered injuries so severe that she’s owed millions in compensation despite a state cap on pain-and-suffering awards, an attorney told the state Supreme Court Wednesday.
At issue before the court is a Cuyahoga County judge’s 2020 decision to cut a portion of a $20 million jury verdict to $250,000. That decision was based on a 2005 law meant to limit the size of awards in lawsuits.
More than five years ago, the state Supreme Court cited that same law, sometimes known as tort reform, when it threw out a $3.6 million jury award to a woman raped by her pastor at age 15. The court reduced the award to about $385,000 based on the 2005 law.
The high court heard arguments Wednesday that such limits are unconstitutional when they involve underage victims of sexual assault. The court also heard an overall challenge to the caps on damages created by the 2005 law.
The 2005 law did allow for exceptions to the caps, such as the loss of a limb or an injury from an accident that prevents a person to live independently. That exception should apply to the woman raped as a child, her attorney, Robert Peck, told the justices.
“The consequences here are so catastrophic that they are certainly more than a permanent scar on the hand or the loss of a finger or the types of things that the statute carves out as exceptions,” he said.
A lawyer representing the man who raped the woman noted that the same jury awarded the woman $114 million — $14 million for pain-and-suffering for rapes that occurred before the 2005 took effect, and $100 million in punitive damages. That amount stands, attorney Marion Little told the court.
“You cannot say she was denied her day in court,” Little said. “You cannot suggest she was denied a meaningful remedy.”
He added that lawmakers crafting the 2005 law anticipated “facts of this nature” by allowing punitive damages without caps.
A court decision isn’t expected for months.
House Democrats have successfully proposed legislation targeting the issue that would lift caps on pain-and-suffering awards for child rape victims.