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All statutes have a strong presumption of constitutionality. Before a court may declare unconstitutional an enactment of the legislative branch, it must appear beyond a reasonable doubt that the legislation and constitutional provisions are clearly incompatible.
Petitioner Melisa Arbino initiated a product-liability action against respondents Johnson & Johnson, Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., and Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C. (collectively, "Johnson & Johnson"), alleging that she suffered blood clots and other serious medical side effects from using the Ortho Evra Birth Control Patch, a hormonal birth-control medication that Johnson & Johnson created. Petitioner’s complaint contained challenges to the constitutionality of the limits on damages in tort cases in R.C. 2315.18, 2315.20, and 2315.21. Petitioner alleged that the statutes violated several provisions of the Ohio Constitution: the right to trial by jury in Section 5, Article I; the right to a remedy and the right to an open court in Section 16, Article I; the right to due process of law in Section 16, Article I; the right to equal protection of the laws in Section 2, Article I; the separation of powers, specifically the prohibition on the General Assembly exercising general judicial powers in Section 32, Article II; and the single-subject rule in Section 15(D), Article II.
Were R.C. 2315.18, 2315.20, and 2315.21 unconstitutional based on the grounds raised by the petitioner?
No, with respect to R.C. 2315.18 and R.C. 2315.21. Questions related to the constitutionality of R.C. 2315.20 were not answered.
The Court found that R.C. 2315.18, limiting noneconomic damages, and R.C. 2315.21, limiting punitive damages, did not offend petitioner’s her right to a jury trial because they only required courts to apply statutory limits to facts found by a jury, and they did not abrogate a jury's right to award punitive damages. Moreover, the Court held that the aforementioned statutes did not violate the "open courts" and "right to a remedy" provisions of Ohio Const. art. I, § 16 because they did not wholly deny a remedy, and punitive damages were not a remedy for injuries. They did not offend due process because they were rationally related to limiting uncertain damage awards and were not arbitrary. They did not offend equal protection because, under a rational basis test, they were rationally related to a legitimate state interest in making the state's civil justice system fairer. The damage limits did not intrude on the judicial power to find damages, contrary to separation of powers. However, the Court refused to answer questions related to the constitutionality R.C. 2315.20, finding that the petitioner had no standing to challenge the statute.