Brandt v. Pompa, 2021-0497

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtO'Connor, C.J.
Citation2022 Ohio 4525
PartiesBrandt, Appellant, v. Pompa, Appellee, et al.
Docket Number2021-0497
Decision Date16 December 2022


Brandt, Appellant,

Pompa, Appellee, et al.

No. 2021-0497

Supreme Court of Ohio

December 16, 2022

Submitted March 30, 2022

Appeal from the Court of Appeals for Cuyahoga County, No. 109517, 2021-Ohio-845.

The Fitch Law Firm, John K. Fitch, and Kirstin A. Peterson; Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, L.L.P., and Stephen C. Fitch; and Center for Constitutional Litigation, P.C., and Robert S. Peck, for appellant.

Zeiger, Tigges & Little, L.L.P., John W. Zeiger, Marion H. Little Jr., and Francesca R. Boland, for appellee.

Rittgers & Rittgers and Konrad Kircher, urging reversal for amici curiae Child USA, Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, Coalition for Children, and Crime Victims Center, Inc.

The Law Offices of Pamela J. Miller and Pamela J. Miller, urging reversal for amicus curiae American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.

Paul W. Flowers Co., L.P.A., Louis E. Grube, and Paul W. Flowers, urging reversal for amici curiae Ohio Association for Justice and American Association for Justice.

Camille M. Crary, urging reversal for amicus curiae Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P., Victor E. Schwartz, Mark A. Behrens, and Cary Silverman, urging affirmance for amici curiae Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, NFIB Small Business Legal Center, American Tort Reform Association, Coalition for Litigation Justice, Inc., and American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

Dinsmore & Shohl, L.L.P., Frank C. Woodside III, Peter J. Georgiton, and Brady R. Wilson, urging affirmance for amicus curiae Product Liability Advisory Counsel, Inc.

Dave Yost, Attorney General, Benjamin M. Flowers, Solicitor General, and Michael J. Hendershot, Chief Deputy Solicitor General, urging affirmance for amicus curiae Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

Calfee, Halter & Griswold, L.L.P., Jason J. Blake, and Gretchen L. Whaling, urging affirmance for amicus curiae David Goodman, former chairman of the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee for Civil Justice.

Bricker & Eckler, L.L.P., Anne Marie Sferra, and Daniel C. Gibson, urging affirmance for amicus curiae Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice.

Tucker Ellis, L.L.P., Benjamin C. Sassé, and Elisabeth C. Arko, urging affirmance for amicus curiae Ohio Association of Civil Trial Attorneys.


O'Connor, C.J.

{¶ 1} In this appeal, we determine whether the compensatory-damages caps for noneconomic loss in R.C. 2315.18 are unconstitutional as applied to appellant, Amanda Brandt. A jury found that Brandt was entitled to a total-damages award that included $20 million in compensatory damages for noneconomic loss against appellee, Roy Pompa, who sexually abused Brandt when she was a child. The trial court applied the statutory damages cap in R.C. 2315.18 and limited the award for noneconomic loss to $250,000. We find the statutory cap as applied to this portion of Brandt's award to be arbitrary and unreasonable and thus in violation of the due-course-of-law guarantee of the Ohio Constitution. See Article I, Section 16, Ohio Constitution. We therefore hold that R.C. 2315.18 is unconstitutional as applied to Brandt.


{¶ 2} In 2006, Pompa was arrested and charged with, among other things, 17 counts of rape, 5 counts of kidnapping, 55 counts of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor, and 21 counts of gross sexual imposition. Pompa was accused of committing these acts against Brandt and other victims. Brandt was 11 and 12 years old when the incidents occurred.

{¶ 3} A jury found Pompa guilty of over 90 counts, 34 of which involved acts against Brandt.[1] The court sentenced Pompa to life in prison.


{¶ 4} In 2018, Brandt filed a civil complaint against Pompa[2] in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas for intentional criminal wrongdoing, knowing dissemination of child pornography, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She also asked the trial court for a declaratory judgment holding R.C. 2315.18 unconstitutional as applied to her case. The trial court held that based on the verdicts in the criminal case and Pompa's admissions, there was no genuine issue of material fact as to Pompa's liability in the tort action. A jury trial was commenced solely to determine the type and amount of Brandt's damages.

{¶ 5} At the damages trial, the jury learned of the 34 criminal offenses committed against Brandt for which Pompa was convicted, and the jury viewed Pompa's testimony from a videotaped deposition. The jury also heard testimony from Brandt and Brandt's mother, as well as expert testimony from a clinical psychologist.

{¶ 6} Brandt testified that Pompa was a friend of the Brandt family and that one of Pompa's daughters was her childhood best friend. Brandt frequently attended sleepovers at Pompa's residence, just a mile away from her home. Brandt recalled that before going to bed at the sleepovers, Pompa would offer her a juice box, iced tea, or water. She said that although it did not strike her at the time, "there was not a morning [after a sleepover] that [she] didn't wake up a little blurry, fuzzy feeling, * * * groggy." The Eighth District Court of Appeals found that "[o]n many occasions, Pompa put illicit substances in Brandt's drinks before she went to sleep in order to commit sexual acts against her without her knowing or being fully aware." 2021-Ohio-845, 169 N.E.3d 285, ¶ 2. But Brandt was aware. Brandt testified that she recalled occasions of abuse at the Pompa residence, particularly, being woken up at night at the feeling of being touched and realizing it was someone touching her all over and under her underwear. Eventually, Brandt no


longer wanted to go to the Pompa residence. She realized that "something was not right" there, and she felt "very panicked at the idea of going over" there. She said, "I tried very hard to not get put back into that home."

{¶ 7} Pompa admitted the sexual abuse involved him masturbating on Brandt, ejaculating on her, including on her face, and abusing her with a dildo or vibrator. The Eighth District found that Pompa recorded his sexual abuse of Brandt on at least eight occasions. Id. at ¶ 6. Pompa also admitted using a "spy cam" to view his daughter's friends when they visited the house.

{¶ 8} Brandt told the jury she "was a pretty normal kid" until the abuse. Her mother described Brandt prior to the abuse as follows:

She was a beautiful, happy-go-lucky friend to everyone. She wanted to conquer the world, loved to travel, loved to go places, had big dreams, was involved in a lot of school activities. You know, she was friends with sports people. She was friends with drama people. She was friends with * * * honor students * * *. She was, like, a friend to everyone She was involved in church. She went [on] all kinds of mission trips. She just had a big heart and was very outgoing.

{¶ 9} Brandt's mother testified that her daughter became a recluse after the abuse: "Her anxiety level was huge. She never wanted to go anywhere. We saw this beautiful, outgoing child turn into someone that didn't want to leave. She just wanted to be alone." Brandt's mother said that her daughter became angry and had sleeping problems. These issues prompted Brandt's mother to take Brandt to see a therapist twice a week, even though the therapist was not close to their home. Brandt's mother testified that the abuse had "totally changed" her daughter. She explained, "I do not have the same daughter anymore. She has a lot of anger, has


a lot of anxiety issues. She can't handle being at a lot of family functions. She has to go to another room when everyone is there. She just is not the same kid that we knew growing up and even now in her adulthood."

{¶ 10} Brandt also testified to the changes she experienced as a result of the abuse. She started having nightmares after the first time Pompa sexually abused her, and she continues to have nightmares, including ones in which Pompa appears. Brandt told the jury that she became a "very angry kid" after the abuse started. She read for the jury a statement she had prepared for Pompa's sentencing in the criminal case. In that statement, she described having been involved in clubs, community service, and social activities before the abuse. She wrote about losing her relationship with her best friend, Pompa's daughter. She described having difficulty sleeping and having serious emotional problems. "Most of the time I don't know what to feel," she wrote. "When I do, it's always anger." She also wrote about not being able to remember anything at school, which caused her grades to suffer and affected which classes she was able to take in high school.

{¶ 11} Brandt testified that after the abuse stopped, she graduated from high school and moved out of her parents' home into an apartment, but she had trouble keeping a job. About her first full-time job, she explained, "[M]y anxiety had been getting worse at that point and after a couple of years there, I was no longer able to meet my requirements and I ended up getting terminated from that job because I could no longer do the things required." She eventually found a door-to-door-sales job, which was worked in pairs. Her coworker offered her heroin, assuring Brandt that she "would feel better" if she tried it. Brandt did try it and became addicted. She told the jury that at that time, she was "desperate for anything that would make [her] feel okay."

{¶ 12} At the beginning of her drug addiction, Brandt lost her apartment and became homeless for approximately a year. Brandt testified about continuing to have panic attacks and not being able to sleep during that time. She said she


"was at a really low point in [her] mental health and there was no break." She eventually sought help and returned to her parents' home.

{¶ 13} Brandt testified that while living with her parents and trying to...

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