Intentional Tort Statute Unconstitutional

Intentional Tort Statute Unconstitutional

Posted: April, 1999

Johnson v. BP Chemicals, Inc. (4/14/99), 85 Ohio St.3d 298.

On April 14, 1999, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Ohio’s “employment intentional tort” statute unconstitutional in its entirety.

An employment intentional tort occurs when an employer (1) acts with knowledge that a harmful process or condition exists in the workplace, (2) knows that harm to the employee due to that harmful process or condition is a “substantial certainty”, and (3) requires the Employee to continue to perform the dangerous task anyway. [Fyffe v. Jeno’s, Inc. (1991), 59 Ohio St.3d 115, syllabus 1 sets forth the exact requirements of an intentional tort.]

The legislature enacted R.C. 2745.01 which changed the requirements of an employment intentional tort and would have made it virtually (if not actually) impossible to establish an employment intentional tort.

The Supreme Court declared that the legislature exceeded its authority in attempting to eliminate the employment intentional tort. The Court indicated that R.C. 2745.01

created a cause of action that is simply illusory. . . . the requirements imposed by R.C. 2745.01 are so unreasonable and excessive that the chance of recovery of damages by employees for intentional torts committed by employers in the workplace is virtually zero.

As a result, the Supreme Court declared the statute unconstitutional because it is not a law which provides for the “comfort, health, safety and general welfare of all employes” as required by Ohio Constitution, Article II, Sec. 34.

Because the Supreme Court declared the statute unconstitutional, the intentional tort standard set forth by the Supreme Court in Fyffe (discussed above) will continue to apply to these types of cases.

This is the third time the legislature has attempted to enact an “employment intentional tort” statute which would make it impossible for employees to recover damages from their employer when the employer has committed an intentional tort. The Supreme Court has declared each of the legislature’s attempts to do so unconstitutional.

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