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Ohio Should Protect the Victims of Sexual Assault and Abuse, Not the Sexual Predators!

It may come as a shock that Ohio law protects companies and other organizations that negligently hire and retain perpetrators of sexual violence over the rights or their victims. Passed under the guise of so called “tort reform”, Ohio Revised Code § 2315.18(B) limits the amount of damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, fear, and mental anguish that can be recovered by victims of sexual violence to the greater of $250,000 or three times the injured party’s economic damages (medical expenses and lost wages). This means that organizations and individuals responsible for sexual violence are able to utilize RC § 2315.18(B) to reduce the amount of damages awarded to their victims by the careful decisions of impartial Ohio jurors.

To see the unfairness and inadequacy of RC § 2315.18(B), one need only look to the facts of the 2016 Ohio Supreme Court case upholding the constitutionality of the statute as applied to a teenage rape survivor. Jessica Simpkins, a fifteen-year-old girl, was raped by a youth pastor with a history of sexual misconduct known to his employer. In spite of his history, the rapist’s employer put him in a position of power over adolescent boys and girls. After hearing the case and coming to understand the impact of the rape on Ms. Simpkins’ life and future, an Ohio jury found her to be entitled to $3,651,378.85 in damages. However, the organization that negligently retained the rapist was able to use RC § 2315.18(B) to reduce her damages to a fractional $350,000 in addition to her medical expenses.

Of the many galling aspects of this unfair law is that the most vulnerable and weakest of the victims receive the least amount of compensation. A small child or an elderly nursing home resident typically has no wage loss claim. Their medical expenses also may be minimal. As a result, children and elderly victims of sexual violence and abuse will almost always receive the lowest of awards. In other words, those who deserve the most protection receive the least protection under this unfair law.

Unfortunately, efforts by State Representatives to undo some of the unfairness of RC § 2315.18(B) have stalled. On February 1, 2017, members of the 132nd General Assembly introduced House Bill 20 which would have prohibited application of RC § 2315.18(B) to reduce noneconomic damages in cases involving sexual violence. After being referred to the House Committee for Governmental Accountability and Oversight on February 8, 2017, the bill has still not received consideration by the Committee.

If you agree that Ohio’s cap on noneconomic damages is unfair, we urge you to contact your Ohio House representative and ask for change.

For more information about House Bill 20 and commentary on the application of RC § 2315.18(B) to cases involving sexual violence, follow these links:

Cleveland Plain Dealer article by Kristin Boggs and Albert Lin

Columbus Dispatch article by Jim Siegel

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The attorneys and staff at Rourke & Blumenthal urge the Ohio Legislature to take a stand for the rights of victims of sexual assault and abuse. As citizens, parents, and human beings, this protection for sexual predators and those who hire and employ them cannot be tolerated. We are proud to represent victims of these types of abuses and their families. We will always do our utmost to ensure that those responsible are held accountable and that our clients are fairly compensated for their losses. We simply ask that this artificial and blatantly unfair limitation on Ohio juries to make full and fair awards be eliminated as soon as possible.