Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Law Limiting Workplace Intentional Torts

In two separate decisions issued on March 23, 2010, the Supreme Court of Ohio upheld the constitutionality of an Ohio law that limits the ability of workers injured on the job to sue their employers for “workplace intentional torts.” The statute at issue, Ohio Revised Code 2745.01, states that a worker bringing an intentional tort claim against his or her employer must prove that the employer acted “with a deliberate intent to cause injury” to the worker.

In Kaminski v Metal & Wire Products Co., the Court held in a 6-1 decision that R.C. 2745.01 did not violate the Ohio Constitution. The plaintiff asked the Court to consider her claim under the Court’s previous standard stated in Fyffe v. Jeno’s Inc., which held that an injured worker may sue for an intentional tort when she can prove that her employer knew about a workplace condition that was “substantially certain to cause injury” to the worker. The court rejected her argument, noting that the Ohio Constitution grants the legislature wide authority to enact laws regulating wages, hours and workplace conditions. As a result, the legislature did not exceed its authority by enacting R.C. 2745.01 and limiting workplace intentional torts.

In a separate decision, Stetter v. R.J. Corman Derailment Services, the Court answered a series of state law questions submitted by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. It found that R.C. 2745.01 does not violate the provisions of the Ohio Constitution that guarantee trial by jury, a remedy for damages, open courts, due process, equal protection of the laws, or the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government. The Court also held that while R.C. 2745.01 restricts the right of a worker to bring an intentional tort claim against the employer, it does not eliminate that right entirely.

Kaminski and Stetter are a resounding victory for R.C. 2745.01 and its limitation on workplace intentional torts. The decisions also bring Ohio in line with a large majority of states that apply standards the same as or similar to those contained in R.C. 2745.01. Additionally, the decisions preserve and strengthen Ohio’s “no-fault” workers’ compensation system by assuring that the system maintains a balance of sacrifices between employers and employees.

Author: Nathan Pangrace

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