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Public Statements

Issue Position: Rulings Affecting Business/Insurance

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Westfield Ins. Co. v. Galatis: This case reversed and overruled the Supreme Court's infamous Scott-Pontzer decision. Galatis holds that absent any language to the contrary, a corporation's uninsured/underinsured motorist policy covers only those employees who may be injured in the course and scope of employment. Although the immediate impact of Galatis was felt on the hundreds of Scott-Pontzer claims in the state, the lasting effect of Justice O'Connor's opinion in Galatis was her development of a three-part test for determining when the Court should abandon the principle of stare decisis and overturn prior precedent.

Cleveland Bar Assn. v. CompManagement, Inc.: In this case, Justice O'Connor held that third-party lay people may perform several tasks in a representative capacity for employers challenging a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Pursuant to Justice O'Connor's opinion, these third-parties can make determinations regarding settlement offers, can relay those offers to the employer, and can communicate the employer's concerns to the hearing officer. Justice O'Connor held these activities permissible in this situation because they do not require legal training. The effect of the decision is to decrease the litigation costs for the employer.

Greer-Burger v. Temesi In this case, the employer filed a lawsuit seeking damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress against his former employee, who had previously lost her employment discrimination case against him. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission prohibited the employer from pursuing his lawsuit, finding that it was per se retaliatory. The trial and appellate courts affirmed this order. In reversing these judgments, Justice O'Connor, writing for the court, held that the employer was not automatically barred from filing an action against the employee. Instead, the employer can proceed with his lawsuit so long as he can establish that his claims are not objectively baseless.

Groch v. GMC Justice O'Connor's opinion in this case affirmed the constitutionality of the state's recently passed laws allowing a self-insured employer to recover workers' comp payments made to an injured worker from the proceeds of a civil judgment or settlement that the worker later receives; and a 10-year statute of repose (time limit) for product liability claims against a product's manufacturer. Pursuant to this opinion, a manufacturer cannot be liable for a product liability claim once ten years have passed from the date the product is delivered to an end user.

Arbino v. Johnson & Johnson Justice O'Connor concurred with Chief Justice Moyer's majority opinion on this case that upheld two tort reform statutes that the General Assembly passed in 2004. The statutes the Court affirmed as a result of this opinion capped (1) non-economic damages at $350,000 and (2) punitive damages to just twice the amount of compensatory damages, unless a felony was involved in causing the injury. These were the first tort reform laws the Court had affirmed in several sessions as the Court had struck down previous tort reform attempts in the late 1990s.


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