Ohio tort reform protects rapists per Ohio Supreme Court ruling

Lack of accountability provides employment avenues for sexual predators

Columbus, OH.(December 14, 2016) - The Ohio Supreme Court today ruled that Ohio’s tort reform legislation, passed in 2005, protects a business that knowingly hires sexual predators, thereby allows sexual offenders to work with children and other vulnerable Ohioans. According to the ruling, an entity that knowingly hires sexual predators is protected by a $350,000 cap on damages that absolves it of responsibility to properly make it up to minor victims of sexual assault. The decision leaves minor Ohio citizens everywhere vulnerable to sexual assault.

Plaintiff Jessica Simpkins of Simpkins v. Grace Brethren was a minor when her pastor repeatedly sexually assaulted her in what should have been a safe and sacred place – her church. She and her father sought justice from Grace Brethren Church who knew of her rapist’s previous complaints through Ohio’s civil justice system. Upon hearing the devastating facts of the case, a jury held Grace Brethren Church responsible for Simpkins’ pain and suffering in the amount of $3.6 million. Citing Ohio’s 2005 law limiting damage amounts for pain and suffering, the court drastically reduced the jury’s award from $3.6 million to $350,000.

The legislation enacting Ohio’s damage caps stated that the reason for the limit was to promote “a fair, predictable system of civil justice.” The reality of what has been promoted, however, is a predictable system for wrongdoers, now including sexual predators and their employers, to evade responsibility for harming the most vulnerable and innocent Ohioans. Tort reform repeatedly exposes vast gulfs between Ohio’s bureaucracy and its citizens’ demand for safety, and the Simpkins case reveals yet another. Any system that removes a punishment for those who knowingly hire rapists provides an avenue for a rapist to be employed, which is a terrifying reality for Ohio’s parents and children. Tort reform guarantees negligible punishment for hiring sex offenders who are likely to rape, and with a Supreme Court ruling upholding this law there is nothing to prevent institutions from hiring a dangerous employee in the event that they are the expedient or cost efficient choice.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is nothing short of a travesty for our innocent children, and for rape victims everywhere,” said Paul Grieco, President of the Ohio Association for Justice. “Tort reform has given Ohio an arbitrary cap on damages, which has in turn protected rapists and those who employ them instead of protecting the safety of our children. Tort reform now protects rapists in Ohio.”

Any citizen concerned with today’s Supreme Court ruling is encouraged to contact OAJ to stay tuned to future actionable efforts. Visit www.oajjustice.org to learn more.

Case Background:

The victim in the case was 15 years old when her pastor raped her multiple times. Consequently, she suffers from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and has been unable to finish college and unable to sustain family relationships. The damage done to the young woman and her family is catastrophic and will continue to impact every aspect of her life. Her church leaders knew the pastor presented a clear and present danger, but they deliberately chose to protect him rather than the innocent members of their youth group. According to Ohio law and because at her young age she was not established in a career, her economic worth was declared negligible. In this case, seeking damages from pain and suffering is the only avenue for injury compensation, yet these non-economic damages are what have been limited by legislative action. The Supreme Court ruled on December 14, 2016, that the damage caps are constitutional, even applied to a minor victim of sexual assault.

About OAJ

The Ohio Association of Justice is a statewide association of plaintiffs’ attorneys dedicated to protecting the Constitutional rights and access to justice for all Ohioans through legislative advocacy and member education since 1954.On the web at oajustice.org.