The Fitch Law Firm filed a brief today in the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of one of its sexual abuse victims, Jessica Simpkins, in her case against the Delaware Grace Brethren Church. In 2008, Jessica, then 15, was twice raped by her pastor, Brian Williams. A jury awarded her 3.5 million dollars in pain and suffering, but under current Ohio law, which caps damages for virtually all rape victims, her award was reduced by the trial court to $350,000, which may yet be reduced further to $250,000 under the law. Moreover, under the “caps” statute, most of her litigation expenses, which total tens of thousands, cannot be recovered, and the statute does not take into consideration her attorney fees. The Fitch Law Firm and its co-counsel have been working on her case for seven years. Thus, current Ohio law protects sexual predators of children as well as those who aid, abet and conceal their misconduct, while often making it financially impractical for sexual abuse victims to pursue legitimate claims against those responsible for the abuse. The law, known as “tort reform”, was passed in 2005, with a large push by the insurance industry, its chief beneficiary. In this case, the church was insured with a one million dollar policy, but the insurance company offered only $73,000 prior to trial, citing in part Jessica’s limited ability to recover under the law. We have asked the Ohio Supreme Court declare the statute unconstitutional.
A special thanks to Stephen C. Fitch and Celia Kilgard, co-counsel, of the Taft, Stittinius and Hollister law firm, for their excellent work on the brief.