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Does the Ohio Judiciary Have a Bias Favoring Insurance Companies?

Yes. Yes they do.

Leeseberg Tuttle is a law firm dedicated to representing ordinary individuals. We do not represent insurance companies, corporations, hospitals or health care corporations. We fight to protect your interests and legal rights from continued erosion at the hands of the rich and powerful, through lobbyists who seek to influence the legislature and Ohio’s courts through campaign contributions and political intimidation.

We at Leeseberg Tuttle believe that a majority of the Ohio Supreme Court justices are judicial activists who have a clear bias in favor of insurance companies and other big businesses, and against working and injured Ohioans. In support of this belief, we can cite the following cases, to name just a few:

  • N. Buckeye Edn. Council Group Health Benefits Plan v. Lawson, 103 Ohio St.3d 188, 2004-Ohio-4886 (overturning 100 years of precedent to the detriment of an injured child);
  • Arbino v. Johnson & Johnson, 116 Ohio St.3d 468, 2007-Ohio-6948 (overturning 16 years of precedent to the favor of a large pharmaceutical company that manufactured and sold a dangerous birth control patch, by upholding legislatively-enacted limits on the amount of damages injured consumers can recover);
  • Sarmiento v. Grange Mut. Cas. Co., 106 Ohio St.3d 403, 2005-Ohio-5410 (disregarding the Ohio Revised Code to the benefit of an insurance company and the detriment of an injured child);
  • Kaminski v. Metal & Wire Prods. Co., 125 Ohio St.3d 250, 2010-Ohio-1027 (overturning 19 years of precedent in favor of companies that intentionally injure employees);
  • Theobald v. Univ. of Cincinnati, 111 Ohio St.3d 541, 2006-Ohio-6208 (giving insurance companies a windfall by transferring the financial responsibility for preventable medical errors to the taxpayers);
  • Bickers v Western & Southern Life Ins. Co., 116 Ohio St.3d 351, 2007-Ohio-6751 (overturning precedent that protected employees injured on the job from being fired for temporarily being unable to work).

Decades ago, efforts to influence the law and public policy primarily through campaign contributions were largely directed at state legislatures. Large corporations, including manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, the tobacco industry, chemical companies, insurance companies and the medical associations have always had disproportionate financial wherewithal to heavily influence legislation in their favor. However, those power brokers eventually realized that influencing the courts was as important, if not more important than influence in the legislatures. Laws passed that they supported, or opposed, would be reviewed, and ultimately upheld, or struck down, by the courts. So, where courts used to be a relatively insignificant focus of political campaigns for those interests, a major change has occurred which has seen enormous amounts of money being spent to influence judicial campaigns. (One Supreme Court candidate reportedly recently told a gathering of political donors that she viewed herself as a “backstop” for the laws passed by the legislature. Code: if you get laws passed, you can count on me to uphold them.) The end result, fueled in part by outrageous decisions of the US Supreme court such as the Citizens United case (holding that campaign contributions from corporations constituted “free speech” and that corporations had the same free speech rights as individuals) is that corporations, well-heeled individual donors (like the Koch brothers), and shadowy “political action funds” have now gained enormous, and often hidden, influence over both the legislative process and the composition of courts that review the laws for constitutionality.

It is inarguable that partisan politics and money have informed both the composition of the courts and the decisions from the courts. In the last two elections cycles, the Secretary of State reports that the money spent by and on behalf of the Republican candidates totaled nearly 5.5 million dollars, with a substantial chunk coming from a front group called “Partnership for Ohio’s Future.” Almost all of that money came from insurance companies, and the state and national Chambers of Commerce. During that same period, Democratic candidates raised and spent about $500,000.00. This nearly 11-1 funding disparity along partisan lines has created the pro-insurance, anti-consumer Supreme Court we have today. When evaluating the effect of such economic influence, one can review the decisions handed down by the Supreme Court, in which those “interested parties” have an interest in the outcome. For example, the Ohio State Medical Association appears as an amicus (“friend of the court”) in almost every case decided by the Supreme Court involving issues of medical malpractice. A review of the decisions in those cases reveals that in virtually every one, the Court ruled in favor of the outcome advocated by the OSMA.

We believe that the rights contained in the Ohio constitution should not be subject to partisan judicial whim. Unfortunately, we believe this is precisely what is happening now. By way of example, several years ago, when a witness testifying in front of a committee of the General Assembly concerning the constitutionality of a bill that would later become R.C section 2745.01 (the employer intentional tort statute), reminded the committee that the Ohio Supreme Court had already twice previously considered and struck down prior versions of the bill on constitutional grounds, the response from several members of the General Assembly was: “Well, we have a new Court now.” We believe this kind of judicial politicking, where Supreme Court decisions are expected and counted on in advance because of the campaign support and election of judges based on their “judicial philosophy”, has done great harm to the integrity of the Ohio Supreme Court, and called into question its independence.

On July 13, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit (which includes Ohio) decided Carey v.Wolnitzek. Acknowledging the shift in politics into the judicial realm, the court said:

In modern America, judicial elections are no less relevant to the public policy concerns of the citizenry than legislative elections, and the First Amendment protects electioneering speech in the one context as vigorously as it does in the other.

To deny that the current Supreme Court of Ohio is an activist and biased Court is to deny reality. We believe it is important to educate the voting public of the reality of this situation so that informed decisions can be made when voting on elected officials, including judicial candidates.

Contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Leeseberg Tuttle today.