Monday, June 21, 2010

Ohio Law Values Property Rights Over Human Rights (And Here's Proof)

This is how out of touch our Ohio Legislature has become. Let's say you as a concerned citizen go to a public meeting and question the safety of Ohio food products. For example, you question whether a huge corporate egg farm is re-packaging old eggs, or claim that an agribusiness is spraying harmful chemicals on apples or broccoli. Under Ohio law, you can be sued for product "disparagement." Ohio is one of 13 states which passed "Veggie libel" laws back in the mid-1990's. According to, "these statutes allow farmers and agribusiness companies to sue individuals or groups who make allegedly false or disparaging comments about certain agricultural products." Agribusiness pushed for these laws after a famous "Oprah" episode where the safety of Texas beef was questioned, and Oprah was sued for it (the case against her was eventually dismissed but that lawsuit got the train of idiocy known as Veggie Libel laws moving in various state legislatures).

If you knowingly disparage the safety of a vegetable or a chicken, for example, you are liable for "compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorney's fees, and costs of the action." And if you intentionally disparage those same vegetables or chickens, the agribusiness is entltled to TRIPLE the amount of compensatory damages against you!!!

The purpose of the law is simple: to stifle consumer groups, or a concerned mother, from questioning food or product safety. So much for your First Amendment Right Of Free Speech (hey all you "constitutionalists" out there, where do you sit on this issue???).

Now let's turn the tables here and see how Ohio law treats individuals harmed by these products. Let's assume that you ate a re-packaged egg laced with bacteria or got e-coli from a bad chicken or pig or a bag of lettuce, spent 6 months in the hospital, and almost died. Under Ohio law, the manufacturer's liability is limited to a sliding scale of $250,000 to $350,000. And by the way, you have to pay your own attorney--the manufacturer does not have to pay your attorneys fees even if it is proven to be negligent. No "tripling" of your compensatory damages (your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering) either. These caps were passed in 2005 at the behest of insurance companies, manufacturers, and The Chamber of Commerce. Our Ohio Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of these caps in 2009.

This is currently the state of the law in Ohio. Disparaged fruits and vegetables have more legal protection than damaged human beings. How (wacked) (Orwellian) is that? I couldn't make up this nonsense if I tried. Nobody would believe it. Truth is stranger than fiction. As I've said before, welcome to Ohio Inc.

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