Ohio's high court finds 'deliberate intent' standard constitutional
Case name: Kaminski v. Metal & Wire Products Co., et al., Slip Opinion No. 2010-OHIO-1027 (Ohio 03/23/10).
Ruling: The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the trial court's dismissal of an employee's intentional tort action against her employer, finding that she failed to establish that the employer intended to cause her injury. It further ruled that R.C. 2745.01, the state law that imposes a "deliberate intent to cause injury" standard in an intentional tort action, did not violate the Ohio Constitution.
What it means: Under Ohio law, an injured worker can prevail in an intentional tort action by demonstrating that: 1) the employer intentionally caused her injury; or 2) the employer knew about a workplace condition or practice that was so dangerous that exposing a worker to it would create a "substantial certainty" of injury, and it exposed the worker to that condition. In a "substantial certainty" claim, the worker must still show that the employer acted with deliberate intent to cause the injury.
Summary:A press operator injured her legs and feet in a forklift accident involving an 800-pound metal coil. She received workers' compensation benefits but also sued the employer, claiming it knew of the danger involved in handling the heavy metal coils and failed to properly train its employees. She argued that her intentional tort claim should be considered under the "substantially certain to cause injury" standard that existed under old law rather than the more restrictive "deliberate intent" standard. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law and found that the trial court properly dismissed the employee's intentional tort action against the employer.
Section 34, Article II of the Ohio Constitution states: "Laws may be passed fixing and regulating the hours of labor, establishing a minimum wage, and providing for the comfort, health, safety and general welfare of all employees; and no other provision of the constitution shall impair or limit this power." The employee argued that by setting such a high standard to prove intent, R.C. 2745.01 did not provide for the "comfort, health, safety and general welfare" of employees and was therefore unconstitutional.
The court disagreed, concluding that the cited articles of the Ohio Constitution are a grant of broad authority rather than a restriction on what the legislature can do.
The court further stated that even construing all materials in a light most favorable to the employee, she could not demonstrate that the employer committed a "tortious act with the intent to injure her or that the employer acted with deliberate intent to cause her to suffer an injury."
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May 17, 2010
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