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Morris v. Savoy

Supreme Court of Ohio

February 20, 1991, Submitted ; August 27, 1991, Decided

No. 89-1807

Opinion

 [*686]  [**767]   This court has not considered either of the statutes challenged by petitioners in this case -- a remarkable fact given the age of the statutes and the [***4]  limits they place on  [**768]  recovery by medical malpractice victims. The statutes were part of ] the General Assembly's response in 1975 to a perceived health care crisis prompted by escalating medical malpractice insurance premiums.

For the reasons set forth below, we hold that that response was unconstitutional in R.C. 2307.43, by setting a $ 200,000 cap on general damages that may be awarded for medical malpractice. This answer will serve as a response to the first and second questions posed by the district court.

Question three requires a threshold determination of constitutionality of R.C. 2305.27 regarding limits on the collateral source rule followed by a specific finding as to the intent of the legislature in its application to future payments. 1 We find that the statute is constitutional and that it was intended to reach future payments capable of being calculated with reasonable certainty.

The Ohio Medical Malpractice [***5]  Act ("Act") was passed as a result of the turmoil that swept the nation in the early 1970s with the medical fraternity predicting dislocation of medical care as the result of soaring malpractice rates. The Act, finally enacted by Am.Sub.H.B. No. 682, 136 Ohio Laws, Part II, 2809, 2813, was introduced in the General Assembly on April 15, 1975, in H.B. No. 682. 136 House Journal, Part I, 687. As introduced, the bill did not contain any limit on the amount of general damages recoverable from either physicians or hospitals. It did provide for abrogation of the collateral source rule. H.B. No. 682, lines 199 to 201, proposed R.C. 2743.02(C). Just two months later, on June 17, a bill much altered in committee and now containing a $ 200,000 cap on general damages for any medical claim was passed by the  [*687]  House and sent to the Senate. 136 House Journal 1217; Sub.H.B. No. 682, lines 469 to 472, proposed R.C. 2743.161. While the bill was in a Senate committee, the Ohio State Medical Association informed the legislature on July 1 that "within the next several days, the number of physicians unable to continue medical practice in Ohio because of lack of adequate malpractice coverage will reach crisis proportions." [***6]  Gongwer News Service, Inc., Ohio Report (July 1, 1975) 3. There was an attempt, while the bill was in the Senate, to place a cap on all damages at $ 500,000, but the amendment was defeated by a vote of eighteen to fourteen. 136 Senate Journal 889. Also during Senate consideration, R.C. 2305.27 was added to require a reduction in a plaintiff's recovery by the amount received from collateral sources. 136 Senate Journal 888. In its final form, the abrogation of the collateral source rule did not affect payments resulting from policies or contracts paid for by plaintiffs or their employers. 136 Senate Journal 950; 136 House Journal 1643-1644. On July 28, the Act was signed into law by Governor James A. Rhodes. The emergency nature of the Act was posited as follows: "The reason for such necessity lies in the fact that immediate action is necessary to insure a continuance of health care delivery to the citizens of Ohio." Am.Sub.H.B. No. 682, Section 8; 136 Ohio Laws, Part II, 2843-2844.

The Act amended ten sections of the Ohio Revised Code and created twenty-six new statutes.  The sweep was broad. Among the changes were provisions for compulsory (though nonbinding) arbitration, R.C. 2711.21, and an altered [***7]  statute of limitations, R.C. 2305.11, principally to eliminate the actuary's nightmare, "long-tail liability." The legislature also established limits on the amounts recoverable in general, or noneconomic, damages and required a setoff for payments from collateral sources. In the last fifteen years, this court has had occasion to rule on the constitutionality of only three statutes in that Act, upholding two, 2 but finding portions of  [**769]  a third unconstitutional. 3

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61 Ohio St. 3d 684 *; 576 N.E.2d 765 **; 1991 Ohio LEXIS 2117 ***

Morris et al. v. Savoy

Subsequent History:  [***1]  As Amended.

Prior History: On Order from the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, Certifying Questions of State Law, No. C88-3649-A.

Disposition: Judgment accordingly.

CORE TERMS

malpractice, collateral, classification, noneconomic, premiums, Assembly, tortfeasor, reduction, crisis, abolishing, double, abrogation, inviolate, coverage

Civil Procedure, Remedies, Damages, General Overview, Healthcare Law, Healthcare Litigation, Actions Against Healthcare Workers, Torts, Malpractice & Professional Liability, Healthcare Providers, Constitutional Law, Substantive Due Process, Scope, Insurance Law, Types of Insurance, Malpractice & Professional Liability Insurance, Collateral Source Rule, Equal Protection, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Nature & Scope of Protection, State Constitutional Operation, Wrongful Death & Survival Actions, Workers' Compensation & SSDI, Administrative Proceedings, Awards, Credits, Labor & Employment Law, Disability & Unemployment Insurance, Unemployment Compensation, Claim Procedures, Eligibility, Payments, Enforcement, Coverage, Employment Status, Governmental Employees, Benefit Determinations, Earning Capacity