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Punitive damages under Ohio product liability law

As a general rule, an action for products liability in Ohio based on the defective design or manufacture of a product or actionable misrepresentations made about a product can seek compensatory damages for injuries or damage or destruction to property (other than the defective product itself). Although products liability law in Ohio is governed by state statutes, its legal theory retains some of its common law concepts, including the possibility under some circumstances of recovering exemplary or "punitive" damages  in addition to compensatory ones.

Ohio products liability statutes make it clear that punitive damages against manufacturers or suppliers of defective products are not subject to punitive damages unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the manufacturer or supplier in question exhibited a "flagrant disregard" for the safety of those whom the product might harm. That the product was defective is insufficient to demonstrate such flagrant disregard.

The determination of whether the manufacturer or supplier manifested a flagrant disregard in its conduct is one for the jury to decide (or for the judge if there is no jury). The court decides the amount of any punitive damages to award, based on specific considerations that include but are not limited to:

  • How likely it is that serious harm would be the result of the behavior in question
  • How aware the manufacturer or supplier was of the likelihood of serious harm
  • How long such misconduct went on, and whether there were any attempts to conceal it
  • How profitable it was for the manufacturer or supplier to engage in the misconduct
  • The behavior of the manufacturer or supplier when the misconduct was revealed, and whether it ceased afterwards

All of the above considerations are ones that a law firm experienced with products liability cases will seek to demonstrate during the presentation of evidence and arguments, so that the plaintiff's ability to secure compensation in the form of punitive damages can be improved and the amount of those damages maximized. 

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