Ohio Supremes Back Limits on Worker Suits

March 24, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Ohio’s Supreme Court has upheld a law restricting injured workers’ ability to sue their employers in intentional tort cases.

Business Insurance reports that the state’s high court ruled Tuesday (in Rose Kaminski vs. Metal & Wire Products Co.) that an “employer intentional tort statute” enacted in 2005 “appears to harmonize” Ohio law with employer intentional tort law and the exclusive remedy of workers comp statutes common in other states.  That overturned a state appellate court finding that the intentional tort law is unconstitutional “in its entirety” in a case brought by a metal press operator, according to BI.

In that case, an 800-pound coil of steel fell in a 2005 accident, injuring Kaminski’s legs and feet, preventing her from returning to work.  She received workers comp benefits but also sued, alleging her employer committed an intentional tort—or that the employer intended to injure the worker or believed an injury was certain to occur.

The Ohio Supreme Court said the state’s General Assembly was “not constitutionally proscribed from legislating in this area”, reinstating the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the employer, which said it ultimately discharged Kaminski “because no other position was available.”

Second Case

In a second case (Carl Stetter et al. vs. R.J. Corman Derailment Services L.L.C. et al.), the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on challenges to the intentional tort law, saying it does not violate several states’ constitutional provisions, including a trial-by-jury provision, the separation-of-powers doctrine or a due-course-of-law provision, according to the report.  The case involved an employee who was injured in 2006 and also received workers comp benefits.

Business Insurance notes that in both cases, the Ohio high court ruled 6-1 with Justice Paul E. Pfeifer dissenting.