Intentional Tort Statute Declared Unconstitutional

Intentional Tort Statute Declared Unconstitutional

Posted: August, 1998

Richey v. Johnson & Harden Co. (7/17/98), Hamilton No. C-970767.

Note: On April 14, 1999, the Ohio Supreme Court declared the employment intentional tort statute unconstitutional in Johnson v. BP Chemicals.

Issue: Is R.C. 2745.01, the employment intentional tort statute, constitutional?

Background: Richey filed a complaint for an intentional tort alleging that the employer knew that an injury was substantially certain to occur. The trial court dismissed the complaint, finding R.C. 2745.01 constitutional and further finding that Richey’s pleading did not state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Richey appealed, arguing that R.C. 2745.01 is unconstitutional.

Decision: Court of Appeals reverses and remands, finding R.C. 2745.01 unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeals states prior precedent forces it to rule R.C. 2745.01 unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s decision in Brady v. Safety Kleen Corp. (1991), 61 Ohio St.3d 624 (finding a different intentional tort statute unconstitutional), requires finding this statute unconstitutional.

The Court of Appeals finds that R.C. 2745.01 is also an attempt by the legislature to virtually eliminate a substantive common law right in violation of the Constitution. Both R.C. 2745.01 and R.C. 4121.80 (the statute ruled unconstitutional in Brady) have a deliberate intent standard. The Supreme Court in Brady declared R.C. 4121.80 unconstitutional in toto. This means that the Court must find R.C. 2745.01 unconstitutional since the same standard is required. The legislature cannot supersede the Constitution through a statute.

After holding the statute unconstitutional, the Court analyzed Richey’s complaint. Even with the heightened pleading requirement required by case law that an employee must plead with particularity that the employer either specifically desired to injure the employee or knew that an injury to the employee was certain or substantially certain to result, Richey’s allegations survive the motion to dismiss.

Editor’s Comment: The Court notes but does not address (because the parties did not address) the effect of the legislature’s attempt to modify Civ. R. 56 by statute. R.C. 2745.01 attempts to have the trial judge weigh evidence in a summary judgment motion. This provision may conflict with Section 5(B), Article IV of the Ohio Constitution or Section 5, Article I of the Constitution.

Information courtesy of the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin. Subscribe to the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Bulletin to keep informed about the Ohio workers’ compensation system.