COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Cleveland-area rape survivor can recoup $20 million in damages as opposed to the $250,000 she’s entitled to under Ohio law, the state’s highest court ruled Friday.
In a 4-3 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of northeast Ohio native Amanda Brandt, who was drugged and sexually abused by a neighbor “dozens of times” from 2004 to 2005, according to court filings. Brandt was 11 and 12 years old at the time of her abuse.
Although a jury determined in 2017 that Brandt was entitled to a $134 million settlement, including $20 million for non-economic damages, a trial court judge slashed the $20 million figure to $250,000 — citing a 2005 Ohio tort reform law that capped the amount plaintiffs can receive for non-economic damages, court records state.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, however, reversed the trial court’s findings. There is no reason, she said, to “improve” Ohio’s tort system at the expense of a small group of people, including Brandt, “who are able to prove that they suffered damage significant enough to exceed the damages caps” imposed by state lawmakers.
“Brandt represents an even smaller group of people…namely, those child victims who suffer traumatic, extensive, and chronic psychological injury as a result of intentional criminal acts and who sue their abusers for civil damages,” O’Connor wrote. “Subjecting this group to the compensatory-damages caps for noneconomic loss has little to no connection to improving the tort system in Ohio.”
In the jury’s verdict, Brandt was awarded a total of $134 million in damages, including:
- $100 million in punitive damages
- $14 million for noneconomic damages incurred prior to April 6, 2005
- $20 million for noneconomic damages occurring after April 6, 2005
Brandt’s perpetrator, Roy Pompa, of Brook Park, was convicted of sexually abusing eight girls between the ages of 6 and 13 in 2007, many of whom were friends with his daughter, according to NBC4’s sister station Fox 8 in Cleveland. A police investigation revealed Pompa had videotaped himself assaulting his victims.
A jury found him guilty of 93 counts of sexual misconduct, including rape and kidnapping charges, and he was eventually sentenced to life in prison.
Justices Michael Donnelly, Melody Stewart and Jennifer Brunner joined O’Connor in ruling in Brandt’s favor.
Justice Sharon Kennedy, R. Patrick DeWine and Patrick Fischer issued dissenting opinions, arguing that as members of the judicial branch, “we must ‘temper our empathy’ and resolve legal matters within the confines of the law.”
The Ohio General Assembly, the dissenting justices argued, acted rationally and unarbitrarily when capping noneconomic damages at $250,000 in an attempt to protect Ohio’s civil justice system and its economy.
“Brandt’s situation is certainly sad, but we cannot provide her with compensation simply because it may be our personal policy preference to do so,” the dissenting justices wrote. “This activism from the bench needs to stop.”
Brandt’s case inspired Rep. Kristin Boggs, an outgoing member of the Ohio General Assembly, to introduce legislation eliminating any and all limitations on the amount of money a rape survivor is entitled to receive. The current bill, House Bill 199, has been introduced several times since 2017.