Jones v. Metrohealth Med. Ctr., No. 102916

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtMELODY J. STEWART, J.
Citation2017 Ohio 7329,89 N.E.3d 633
Parties Alijah JONES, et al., Plaintiffs–Appellants/Cross–Appellees v. METROHEALTH MEDICAL CENTER, et al., Defendants–Appellees/Cross–Appellants
Docket NumberNo. 102916
Decision Date24 August 2017

89 N.E.3d 633
2017 Ohio 7329

Alijah JONES, et al., Plaintiffs–Appellants/Cross–Appellees
v.
METROHEALTH MEDICAL CENTER, et al., Defendants–Appellees/Cross–Appellants

No. 102916

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga County.

RELEASED AND JOURNALIZED: August 24, 2017


Michael F. Becker, The Becker Law Firm Co., L.P.A., 134 Middle Avenue, Elyria, OH 44035, Paul W. Flowers, Paul W. Flowers Co., L.P.A., Terminal Tower, Suite 1910, 50 Public Square, Cleveland, OH 44113, Pamela E. Pantages, Nurenberg Paris Heller & McCarthy, 600 Superior Avenue, East, Suite 1200, Cleveland, OH 44114, ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS/CROSS–APPELLEES

Leslie Moore Jenny, Jason P. Ferrante, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, 127 Public Square, Suite 3510, Cleveland, OH 44114, Susan M. Audey, Irene Keyse–Walker, Tucker Ellis L.L.P., 950 Main Avenue, Suite 1100, Cleveland, OH 44113, For MetroHealth Medical Center, et al.

Anne Marie Sferra, Bricker & Eckler L.L.P., 100 South Third Street, Columbus, OH 43215, Sean McGlone, Ohio Hospital Association, Inc., 155 East Broad Street, Suite 301, Columbus, OH 43215, For Ohio Hospital Association, et al.

BEFORE: Stewart, J., Kilbane, P.J., and Boyle, J.

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

MELODY J. STEWART, J.:

89 N.E.3d 640

ON RECONSIDERATION1

{¶ 1} A jury awarded plaintiff-appellant Stephanie Stewart, as mother and next friend of her son, plaintiff-child Alijah Jones, a combination of past and future economic damages, and non-economic damages in the amount of $14.5 million on their medical malpractice action against defendants-appellees MetroHealth Medical Center and Steven Weight, M.D. In post-trial proceedings, and over Stewart's objections, the trial court ordered statutory offsets of collateral sources for political subdivisions as required by R.C. 2744.05(B)(1) and damage caps on non-economic damages as required by R.C. 2744.05(C)(1). The court's offsets reduced the total award to $3.451 million.

{¶ 2} In this appeal, Stewart argues that MetroHealth did not prove its political subdivision status as a predicate for asserting its right to statutory offsets. She also argues that because there were no interrogatories submitted to the jury from which it could be determined what amount of the damages award was an amount for lost wages as opposed to loss of services, the court had to speculate on the composition of the award and could not have determined MetroHealth's right to an offset to a reasonable degree of certainty. Stewart also maintains that the court misconstrued the evidence relating to both past and future economic damages and speculated on the jury's intent to award damages only on a life care plan to the exclusion of all other future damages components. Finally, Stewart raises an as-applied constitutional challenge to the enforcement of the collateral source setoffs, as well as constitutional challenges based on due process, equal protection, separation of powers, and the right to a trial by jury.

{¶ 3} MetroHealth raises a conditional cross-appeal, to be considered only in the event our disposition of Stewart's appeal reverses or modifies the court's order offsetting economic damages or limiting non-economic damages.

{¶ 4} We conclude that R.C. 2744.05 is constitutional in all respects. We also conclude that the court did not err by conducting a post-trial hearing to determine MetroHealth's right to a statutory offset. We do, however, conclude that the offset

89 N.E.3d 641

ordered by the court was error. We reject in whole MetroHealth's cross-appeal.

I. The Appeal

{¶ 5} The jury's verdict and the damages it awarded resulted from a finding that Dr. Weight and MetroHealth failed to adhere to the applicable standard of care when managing Stewart's pregnancy and supervising the birth of her son. Those failures resulted in the child being born at 25 weeks by way of Caesarean section. The child suffers from cerebral palsy, developmental delays, and visual impairment. The medical experts agreed that Stewart's son will need 24–hour attendant care for the remainder of his life. The jury specified the damages award as follows: to the child—$500,000 for past economic damages, $5 million in non-economic damages, and $8 million for future economic damages; to Stewart—$1 million for non-economic damages.

{¶ 6} Before trial concluded, MetroHealth filed a motion asking the court to conduct a post-verdict hearing to determine the amount of any collateral benefits to be offset from a jury award against it as required by R.C. 2744.05(B)(1). In post-trial motions, MetroHealth asked the court to enforce the $250,000 cap on non-economic damages pursuant to R.C. 2744.05(C)(1) and Stewart raised a constitutional challenge to both R.C. 2744.05(B)(1) and 2744.05(C)(1).

{¶ 7} R.C. 2744.05(B)(1) states that if a claimant is entitled to receive or does receive benefits for injury or loss from insurance or other sources, "the amount of the benefits shall be deducted from any award against a political subdivision recovered by that claimant." R.C. 2744.05(C)(1) states that "damages that arise from the same cause of action, transaction or occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences and that do not represent the actual loss of the person who is awarded the damages shall not exceed two hundred fifty thousand dollars in favor of any one person."

{¶ 8} After conducting a post-trial hearing on MetroHealth's motion, the court issued a written decision granting the motion. Under authority of R.C. 2744.05(C)(1), the court capped the child's $5 million non-economic damages award at $250,000 and likewise capped Stewart's $1 million non-economic damages award at $250,000.

{¶ 9} The court considered two separate offsets for collateral sources as required by R.C. 2744.05(B)(1) : one for the child's $500,000 award for past economic damages; the other for his $8 million award for future economic damages. The court found, over Stewart's objection, that all of the child's past medical bills were included in the award for past economic damages. It reached this conclusion based on uncontradicted testimony from an expert who testified that neither Stewart nor the child had any out-of-pocket expenses because the medical bills had been paid in full by Medicaid and Social Security.

{¶ 10} The court ordered an offset of future economic damages for all medical expenses that the child would incur after his 20th birthday. It found it undisputed that the child would qualify for Medicare on his 20th birthday because of his father's disability, and that Medicare would pay all future medical expenses from that point in time forward. Looking only at the eight-year period between the child's age at the time of the post-trial hearing (12 years old) and his eligibility for Medicaid at age 20, the court concluded that the child could obtain medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act until he became eligible for Medicare. The court determined that the child's maximum expenses for the eight-year period would be $116,000: a maximum $8,000 per year premium for medical insurance and a yearly, maximum out-of-

89 N.E.3d 642

pocket expense of $6,500. The court concluded that expenses allocated in the life care plan should be offset in their entirety (excepting costs for transportation, home care, and housing) and that the remaining amount should be offset by 80 percent to account for what Medicare would cover. After making these deductions, the court reduced the child's award for future economic damages to $2,951,291.

A. Statutory Offset

{¶ 11} In her first assignment of error, Stewart complains that the court erred by applying the damages cap and offset provisions of R.C. 2744.05 to MetroHealth because no immunity was available to attach to a political subdivision. Stewart argues that sovereign immunity—the concept that the state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution—applies only to the state of Ohio and not to political subdivisions. Noting that Section 16, Article I, of the Ohio Constitution states that, "[s]uits may be brought against the state, in such courts and in such manner, as may be provided by law," Stewart maintains that the state waived immunity, but that waiver does not apply to political subdivisions due to R.C. 2743.01(B), which defines "political subdivisions" as municipal corporations and bodies politic "to which the sovereign immunity of the state attaches." By Stewart's reckoning, if the state has waived immunity from suit, political subdivisions can have no immunity of their own because their immunity is based on the state's immunity.

{¶ 12} Stewart's argument is essentially taken from dicta in the lead opinion in Butler v. Jordan , 92 Ohio St.3d 354, 750 N.E.2d 554 (2001). The proposition on which she relies is not law.

{¶ 13} In O'Brien v. Olmsted Falls , 8th Dist. Cuyahoga Nos. 89966 and 90336, 2008-Ohio-2658, 2008 WL 2252527, we reached this same conclusion and noted the many appellate districts that have "refused to declare R.C. [Chapter] 2744 unconstitutional despite the plurality's pronouncement in Butler ." Id. at ¶ 26 (collecting cases). Stewart has provided no compelling reason for us to depart from our precedent...

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6 practice notes
  • State v. Delvallie, 109315
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • February 17, 2022
    ...v. Defenbacher, 164 Ohio St. 142, 128 N.E.2d 59 (1955), paragraph one of the syllabus; Jones v. MetroHealth Med. Ctr., 2017-Ohio-7329, 89 N.E.3d 633, ¶ 63 (8th Dist). {¶ 19} Courts in Ohio do not share the responsibility of establishing "legislative policies or [second-guessing] the General......
  • State v. Delvallie, 109315
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • February 17, 2022
    ...v. Defenbacher , 164 Ohio St. 142, 128 N.E.2d 59 (1955), paragraph one of the syllabus; Jones v. MetroHealth Med. Ctr. , 2017-Ohio-7329, 89 N.E.3d 633, ¶ 63 (8th Dist.). {¶ 19} Courts in Ohio do not share the responsibility of establishing "legislative policies or [second-guessing] the Gene......
  • Riedel v. Akron Gen. Health Sys., Nos. 104962
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • March 8, 2018
    ...argument, the Jones case was pending reconsideration. Jones was vacated and overruled by Jones v. MetroHealth Med. Ctr. , 2017-Ohio-7329, 89 N.E.3d 633 (" Jones ").97 N.E.3d 519{¶ 40} Jones considered the question of offsets against damages required by R.C. 2744.05(B)(1), and the collateral......
  • Grayson v. Cleveland Clinic Found., 110684
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • May 19, 2022
    ...v. Defenbacher, 164 Ohio St. 142, 128 N.E.2d 59 (1955), paragraph one of the syllabus; Jones v. MetroHealth Med. Ctr., 2017-Ohio-7329, 89 N.E.3d 633, ¶ 63 (8th Dist.). Whether advanced as a facial or an as-applied challenge to the constitutional validity of a statute, conclusory statements ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • State v. Delvallie, 109315
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • February 17, 2022
    ...v. Defenbacher, 164 Ohio St. 142, 128 N.E.2d 59 (1955), paragraph one of the syllabus; Jones v. MetroHealth Med. Ctr., 2017-Ohio-7329, 89 N.E.3d 633, ¶ 63 (8th Dist). {¶ 19} Courts in Ohio do not share the responsibility of establishing "legislative policies or [second-guessing] the General......
  • State v. Delvallie, 109315
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • February 17, 2022
    ...v. Defenbacher , 164 Ohio St. 142, 128 N.E.2d 59 (1955), paragraph one of the syllabus; Jones v. MetroHealth Med. Ctr. , 2017-Ohio-7329, 89 N.E.3d 633, ¶ 63 (8th Dist.). {¶ 19} Courts in Ohio do not share the responsibility of establishing "legislative policies or [second-guessing] the Gene......
  • Riedel v. Akron Gen. Health Sys., Nos. 104962
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • March 8, 2018
    ...argument, the Jones case was pending reconsideration. Jones was vacated and overruled by Jones v. MetroHealth Med. Ctr. , 2017-Ohio-7329, 89 N.E.3d 633 (" Jones ").97 N.E.3d 519{¶ 40} Jones considered the question of offsets against damages required by R.C. 2744.05(B)(1), and the collateral......
  • Grayson v. Cleveland Clinic Found., 110684
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • May 19, 2022
    ...v. Defenbacher, 164 Ohio St. 142, 128 N.E.2d 59 (1955), paragraph one of the syllabus; Jones v. MetroHealth Med. Ctr., 2017-Ohio-7329, 89 N.E.3d 633, ¶ 63 (8th Dist.). Whether advanced as a facial or an as-applied challenge to the constitutional validity of a statute, conclusory statements ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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