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Legislative Notes


On March 4, 1980, the Ohio General Assembly finally concurred on an amended form of Senate Bill 165, and when the Governor added his signature, Ohio had a comparative negligence statute. The law represents the culmination of long and arduous efforts at compromise in the legislature and follows more than seven years of fierce opposition by insurance companies and the insurance lobby. When the opposition finally withdrew and the last wrinkles were ironed out, the lawmakers devised a mathematical damages apportionment system for negligence cases where contributory negligence is asserted. However, the Act leaves important questions unanswered, and problems which are certain to arise are not even approached in Ohio Revised Code section 2315.19. The bench and the bar of Ohio have been left with the task of supplying solutions to such problems, with little help from any legislative history. This note will explore selected areas of Ohio law which will be affected by the Act, and analyze expected impacts and possible consequences of the Act.

The first issue likely to be raised under section 2315.19 is whether it will apply retroactively or prospectively, from the date of the injury or the date the claim is filed; therefore, this area is examined first. This note will include analysis of last clear chance and assumption of risk because an earlier version of S.B. 165 was expressly inapplicable to these doctrines, whereas section 2315.19 does not mention them. Strict products liability is a growing area of tort law and it has a particularly interesting background in Ohio law. Since it overlaps substantially into negligence law, products liability raises rather unique problems. Finally, a section on multi-party litigation is included because it is the most complicated area of law addressed in section 2315.19, and is likely to be the most troublesome in the courts.

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