Intentional Tort Statute Declared Unconstitutional
Note: On April 14, 1999, the Ohio Supreme Court declared the employment intentional tort statute unconstitutional in Johnson v. BP Chemicals., 85 Ohio St.3d 298.
In Johnson v. BP Chemicals (11/18/97), Allen No. 1-97-32, the Third Appellate District ruled the Ohio intentional tort statute, R.C. 2745.01 unconstitutional.
Johnson involves a claim against the BP Chemical facility in Lima. An employee of BP was injured due to spray heads which failed. The employee contends that the employer was aware of a dangerous condition which led to the injury, and failed to take safeguards.
The Court of Common Pleas dismissed the claim for failure to establish an intentional tort under the statutory definition.
The Court of Appeals reversed the Common Pleas Court.
The Court of Appeals says that the intentional tort statute (R.C. 2745.01) violates Equal Protection. The statute provides a higher standard for an employment intentional tort — an employment intentional tort exists under the statute only if there is proof by “clear and convincing” evidence that the employer “deliberately and intentionally” injured the employee.
The Court says (1) no legitimate government interest exists for different treatment of victims who are employees and victims who are not employees; (2) no legitimate government interest exists for imposing a higher burden of proof.
The Court observes that there is no legitimate interest in restricting a victim’s recovery based on employment status. The Court notes that to require “deliberate and intentional acts” proven by “clear and convincing evidence” creates a virtually insurmountable obstacle for victims.