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How does Ohio law limit huge malpractice verdicts?

It is not always possible for a doctor or hospital to get a medical malpractice lawsuit dismissed, or to be found not guilty at the end of trial. And most health care providers agree that they should compensate patients for injuries caused by their mistakes. But at the same time, some forms of personal injury damages can be fairly difficult to compute.

When presented with the opportunity to award non-economic damages, for things like pain and suffering or loss of consortium, juries sometimes become swayed by their emotions and order huge verdicts. Besides being potentially unfair, massive non-economic awards can bankrupt a medical practice, and dissuade doctors from practicing in a particular state.

This is why many states, including Ohio, have enacted caps on some forms of medical malpractice damages. In this state, plaintiffs cannot receive more than $250,000 or triple the amount of economic damages, whichever is greater. Either way, non-economic damages cannot exceed $350,000 per plaintiff or $500,000 per instance of malpractice.

There is also a limit on punitive damages, which are intended to punish egregious cases of malpractice. In Ohio, punitive damages cannot exceed double the compensatory damages, unless the tort involved was intentional, i.e., a murder. In addition, the law limits punitive damages to 10 percent of the defendant’s net worth, and sets a hard cap of $350,000 for individuals or small businesses, such as many medical practices.

Efforts to prevent unreasonable malpractice verdicts have been called “tort reform.” While somewhat controversial, lawmakers in almost every state have passed some form of tort reform in the last several years.

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