Ohio Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Law Restricting Monetary Awards to Child Rape Victims

large statue of a gavel in a fountain in front of the Ohio Supreme Court building

There are six states in the U.S. that have laws to limit the amount of pain and suffering damages an injured victim can recover – Ohio is one of them.

Since 2005, Ohio has restricted the amount of non-economic damages that may be awarded to a plaintiff in a personal injury action to $250,000 to an absolute maximum of $350,000.  The only exception to these strict limitations is for permanent injuries (i.e., loss of limb or bodily organ) that result in the person being unable to independently care for themselves.

These laws were enacted because Ohio lawmakers feared that without legal protection for businesses against lawsuits, they may not want to relocate to Ohio.  However, in the nearly 17 years since these lawmakers passed these caps, the law has been repeatedly used by sexual predators to strip child rape victims of millions of dollars in legal damages.

Negative Effects of the Damage Cap

At the age of 15, Jessica Simpkins was raped twice by her pastor. Her church knew the pastor had previously engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with other young women. A jury awarded her $3.5 million. A judge, citing Ohio’s cap on non-economic damages, reduced Jessica’s award to $350,000.

At the age of 11, Amanda Brandt was drugged and raped dozens of times by her friend’s father over 18 months. She suffered PTSD and attempted suicide. The defendant, who videotaped himself drugging and sexually assaulting her, as well as other young girls between 7 and 14, was convicted of 93 charges including rape and kidnapping.  He was sentenced to more than 450 years in prison for his heinous crimes.  A jury awarded Amanda with a $20 million verdict for the abuse. However, the child molester was able to use Ohio’s cap on damages to request that the judge reduce the award to $250,000.

These damage caps are not only used to restrain the power of juries, who hear evidence in court, to determine what is fair and just, but also effectively provides that a child can be raped repeatedly, even dozens of times, but regardless of how many times a perpetrator rapes a child, the law limiting monetary damages considers them all to be one occurrence and his damages for all her pain and suffering will be limited to $250,000.  So while a man can be criminally sentenced for each and every rape against a child, civilly, he only has to pay for one of them. This type of treatment of a child rape victim is outrageous.

Challenges to the Law

Thankfully, the Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the law. The Court has set a March 30 date to hear arguments for and against the constitutionality of caps on pain-and-suffering awards in lawsuits brought by child rape victims. In addition, the Ohio legislature is currently reassessing this issue and looking at possible legislation to change it.

Get in Touch With Us Today

Our firm represents child victims of sexual assault.  We understand the traumatic consequences sexual abuse can have throughout a child’s lifetime, from youth into adulthood. We have a strong record of fighting for victims of sexual abuse and securing monetary and punitive damages. We are dedicated to treating our clients with compassion, dignity and with an understanding of how difficult it can be to come forward and engage in this process. If you or your child has experienced sexual abuse, we are here to help you. Contact us for a free and confidential case evaluation.

Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC