• Victory for Employers - Intentional Tort Statute Constitutional
  • April 2, 2010 | Authors: Cole D. Bond; Mark J. Chumley; Paul D. Dorger; Jamie M. Goetz-Anderson; Robert W. Maxwell
  • Law Firm: Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL - Cincinnati Office
  • In two related cases decided yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Ohio’s employer intentional tort statute.  Ohio Rev. Code § 2745.01, enacted in 2005 as part of tort reform, provides that an employer is liable to an employee for a workplace intentional tort only if the employee can prove that the employer committed the act with the intent to injure another or with the belief that injury was substantially certain to occur.  The law defines “substantially certain” as meaning that “an employer acts with deliberate intent to cause an employee to suffer an injury, a disease, a condition, or death.”

    Prior to 2005, employees could pursue intentional tort claims if they could show the harm was intentional or that an employer exposed a worker to a condition “substantially certain” to cause injury.  The Ohio Supreme Court had struck down as unconstitutional prior statutes that attempted to tighten the amorphous “substantially certain” standard for workplace intentional torts.  As a result, courts were free to broadly apply the “substantially certain” standard.

    In Kaminski v. Metal & Wire Products Co., Slip Opinion No. 2010-Ohio-1027, an injured employee claimed that the 2005 tort reforms were unconstitutional based on Sections 34 and 35 of Article II of the Ohio Constitution.  The Court disagreed, finding that Sections 34 and 35 of Article II do not restrict the authority of the legislature to enact laws regulating workplace conditions.  The Court rejected additional challenges to the constitutionality of the tort reform statute in a separate case submitted for review by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio — Stetter v. R.J. Corman Derailment Services, L.L.C., Slip Opinion No. 2010-Ohio-1029.  Taken together, the decisions establish that § 2745.01 is constitutional.

    The decisions finally provide clear guidance to employers on the standard for employment intentional torts, an area of law that has been in tumult in Ohio for a number of years.  This is an important victory for employers because the statute places significant limitations on an employee’s ability to recover damages for intentional tort by requiring proof that the employer acted with deliberate intent to injure an employee.