Federal Judge David Katz of Toledo has asked Ohio’s highest court to decide whether Ohio’s cap on in civil lawsuits is constitutional. Judge Katz made this request because it could affect a lawsuit before him in which Ohio litigants are suing Ortho Evra, alleging the company’s birth control patch caused serious side effects or death.
The caps on damages awards have been passed by the state legislature, but the state supreme court has not yet decided if the limits are constitutionally sound. Referral of a question on constitutionality from a Federal judge to the State Supreme Court is unusual, and could expedite the determination. The state Supreme Court has the option of declining the request for a ruling. The Ohio Supreme Court struck down a similar statute, passed in 1996, determining that they were unconstitutional. However, that vote was very close, and it is uncertain what the current supreme court will do with this issue.