Medical malpractice laws in Ohio have been relatively stable since early 2003. In April of that year, sweeping medical malpractice reforms were introduced, most of which applied to cases filed after April 11, 2003 (when the new laws took effect). What follows is a summary of the major components of Ohio’s medical malpractice laws, which can be found in full in Chapters 2305 and 2323 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Ohio
A medical malpractice case in Ohio have a one-year statute of limitations, which starts to run when either the injury is (or reasonably should have been) discovered or when the doctor/patient relationship for the condition in question ends, whichever comes later. Regardless of when the injury occurred or was discovered or when the doctor/patient relationship ended, all medical malpractice cases must be filed within four years in Ohio.
There is also a statute of repose, applying only to claims arising out of acts or omissions on or after April 11, 2003, that specifically applies to cases involving either a foreign object left in the body or a claim that was discovered after three years. In those cases, a plaintiff has one full year from discovery of the foreign object or injury, even if that one full year would put the plaintiff outside the normal four-year window.
Ohio allows, but does not currently require, the filing of a notice of intent to sue before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. A notice of intent to sue is served upon a potential defendant doctor and filed with the court of record, and essentially buys a potential plaintiff 180 days in which to research and prepare their case before filing. It also pauses, or tolls, the statute of limitations during the notice period. As long as the notice of intent is properly filed within one year of discovery of the injury in question (and within four years of the accrual of the claim), the six-month notice period applies.
The statute of limitations for a non-malpractice personal injury claim in Ohio is two years, so medical malpractice cases differ significantly in this area. Wrongful death is a separate action in Ohio, so a wrongful death case arising from malpractice may be filed within two years of the decedent’s passing, even if the malpractice case is time-barred.
Notice and Expert Requirements for Ohio Medical Malpractice Claims
All medical malpractice cases filed in Ohio must be supported by an affidavit of merit executed by an appropriate expert witness, which means the expert must be licensed to practice medicine in any state and must focus three-quarters of his or her professional time to the active clinical practice of medicine (or the teaching thereof).
The affidavit of merit must include statements affirming that the expert has reviewed the records available, is familiar with the applicable standard of care, and is of the opinion that the defendant doctor(s) breached the standard of care and injured the plaintiff.
Damage Caps and Liability in Ohio
Ohio has limited the non-economic damages (pain and suffering) amounts available in medical malpractice cases.
Non-economic damages are currently capped at the greater of $250,000.00 or three times the economic damages up to a maximum of $350,000.00 per plaintiff or $500,000.00 in cases involving multiple plaintiffs.
In certain cases where the injuries are deemed “catastrophic,” the caps are raised to $500,000.00 per plaintiff or $1,000,000.00 in cases involving multiple plaintiffs. Permanent and substantial deformity, loss of a limb, loss of an organ system and injuries so severe and permanent that they preclude self-care are all considered “catastrophic.”
The damage caps do not apply to wrongful death cases arising from malpractice in Ohio.
(Learn more about damage caps in medical malpractice cases.)
Ohio assigns percentages of fault to parties and non-parties alike, so a defendant is normally only liable for his or her percentage of fault. For example, a doctor found 30% liable for a $100,000.00 claim would only be responsible for paying the plaintiff $30,000.00. There are two exceptions. The first is in a case involving an intentional act. The second is in cases where a defendant is found more than 50% liable for plaintiff’s injuries. In those cases, a single plaintiff can be held liable for the entire verdict, regardless of percentage of fault.
Wrongful Death and Medical Malpractice in Ohio
In Ohio, malpractice cases that result in the death of a patient give rise to two different claims: a claim for malpractice that seeks damages relating to suffering and loss prior to the patient’s death, and a wrongful death case seeking damages for the monetary loss suffered by the decedent’s next of kin. Wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the decedent’s passing.